Romans 16:25-27 – Doxology

DOXOLOGY

Romans 16v25-27 [cf.1v1-7]

 

INTRODUCTION

ILLUS.: past week – many people at a lost for word to express their sadness, grief, anger,  over the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

 

There are many things in life that we find difficult to describe – times when we are broken-hearted or times when we are overjoyed. On occasions when we experience the magnificence of God creation – the snow capped Swiss Alps, the great plains of Africa, the picturesque landscape of Britain or the wild and ruggered coasts of Alaska.

OR on a grander scale than that – when we get a glimpse of God’s great salvation – and as wonderful as our view is, it is but a glimpse – just a few pieces of a grand jig-saw – but even the small glimpses we have of God and his salvation cause us to be at a loss for words to express their grandeur!

Many times the NT writers try to find words to express their praise to God – in these few verses [16v25-17] – we have Paul trying to encapsulate the magnificence of God’s plan in Christ for the nations of the earth and for God’s own glory.

 

The themes Paul touches on in the conclusion of his letter are the same things that he introduced at the beginning – indeed these are the themes of the letter:     1) The power of God to save and keep his people; 2) the gospel of God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ; 3) the evangelisation of the nations of the world; 4) praising God for his great wisdom.

 

1. GOD’S POWER.

Romans 16:25

25 Now to him who is able to establish you ……………..

 

Romans 1:11-12

11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some    spiritual gift   to make you strong [establish

 

you] —    12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged    by each other’s faith. (NIV)

 

Paul emphasizes two things about the power of God in this letter – one is the power of God to save – the other is the power of God to establish/strengthen.

In Romans 1:16  Paul says 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (NIV)

 

The Romans would have understood great power and strength – the might of the Roman Empire – the great armies conquering city and nations, Here was another power, not a destructive power, not an oppressive power BUT a saving, liberating power — it rescues from the guilt of sin, from bondage to sin, from the punishment of sin and bring righteousness and freedom and everlasting joy!

 

The word for power is dunamos – dynamite – we tend to use dynamite as a destructive power – but the gospel is positive dynamite – the gospel is the full force of God’s power for good.

We see the great power that mankind can create [ nuclear weapons] and also great power for good — Satan, too, has great power – always destructive .. BUT only God has the power to give life. Human science cannot create life and Satan cannot create life — only God. NOT only physical life but spiritual life….

 

How did Paul know this power? And how are we to know this power? Ultimately because we have experienced the saving power of God in the gospel. Forgiven our sins — made us his children — put his Spirit in us — in short by the power that raised Christ from the dead he has given us new life. Only God has the power to impart life — esp. Spiritual life!!

 

This power of God displayed in the gospel is not only there to save but also to establish.

16:25 ….to him who is able  [has the power ] to establish you ……………..

1:11-12  11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong [establish you] — 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. (NIV)

Paul concern was not only that they are saved BUT also strong in the Lord.

There are far too many Christians trying to live on past salvation experience – the question is, “How is your spiritual life today?” The only evidence that a person was saved in the past is if s/he is exhibiting spiritual life today.

This was Paul’s concern for the churches – that they be nurtured and strengthened –

Acts 14:21-22    21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening [establishing] the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith….

Acts 15:41 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening [establishing] the churches. (NIV)

Acts 18:23  23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and travelled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening [establishing] all the disciples.

 

As Christians we need to be strong – to be well grounded in the faith — to know what we believe — to have a close relationship with Jesus — to know the continual presence and filling of the Holy Spirit —

SO THAT – we may be sure of what we believe in the face of erroneous teaching               – be holy in the face of temptation

– be courageous in the face of opposition and persecution

 

Paul puts these two ideas of God’s power together in his letter to the Colossians ..

Colossians 2:6-7  6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,  [the power to save] …  continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith  [the power to establish]  …as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (NIV)

 

 

2. GOD’S GOSPEL.

 

Romans 1:1-4   1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 16:25-26          25 ….. to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God………..

 

What is the gospel? Gospel means good news. BUT what constitutes the good news?  He says it is a mystery — Paul doesn’t spell out here what this mystery is but he does elsewhere.

 

Colossians 2:2 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, CHRIST, (NIV)

Colossians 1:27 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is CHRIST in you, the hope of glory. (NIV)

Ephesians 1:9-10 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even CHRIST. (NIV)

 

This gospel which was a mystery to the people of the OT – it was hidden from them – it is no longer hidden – God has opened up this mystery so that it is no longer secret – he has revealed it in the person of Christ.

In order to know God’s good news – to know the gospel – we must know Christ!!

 

3. GOD’S COMMISSION.

 

Romans 1:5 5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith..

Romans 16:26 26 [The gospel] …..now revealed and made known ……………. so that all nations might believe and obey him — (NIV)

 

God’s power and God’s Gospel need to be made known to ALL NATIONS / PEOPLE therefore God commissions his people.

 

1) Prophetic writings — In the past this good news was made known through the  “prophetic writings” which can only refer to the OT. If this was so how was it a mystery? Did the OT people not see or understand this mystery? NO! It was only after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that the people began, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, to see that the promises and prophecies of the OT referred to Jesus the Messiah.

Remember after the resurrection, when Jesus appears to his disciples in …

Luke 24:44        44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (NIV)

 

As the apostles understood that the Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth, the OT opened up to them is a new way and they began to declare this GOOD NEWS /the gospel to everyone – first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.

 

2) The command to evangelize the World – .. by the command of the eternal God  – We tend to focus on the commission to evangelize the world as coming from Jesus – and of course that is true – [Matt.28] – And in the introduction to his letter Paul says that he received “grace and apostleship to call people” to the gospel from Jesus Himself. BUT behind the risen Christ stood the eternal God whose purpose it has always been to reconcile to himself people from all nations – both Jews and Gentiles.

 

If we fail to understand and to act upon this truth of scripture we neglect the heart of the Christian faith. When I become a Christian I can’t pick and choose which bits of the gospel I will believe and which I won’t!  It is not a smorgasbord!! I accept Christ and all that he is and all the he stands for and all the he is aiming to accomplish in the world. If I fail to have a concern for other people and their eternal well-being. I am not only doing them a disservice but I am disobeying and dishonouring Christ to whom I claim to belong.

Paul tell the Corinthians … 2 Corinthians 5:20 20 We are .. Christ’s ambassadors, ….

Jesus told the disciples in Acts 1:8 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses ……….

The point is that if you are a Christian – you are an ambassador for Christ — you are a witness. The question is … What kind of an ambassador or witness are you?

 

Our commissioning orders to take this good news to the world come from none other than the Eternal God.

 

3) The obedience of faith – [1v5; 16v26] an identical phrase in both — What does this Phrase mean? It is quite clear from the NT the we come to Christ by faith alone – a major theme of Romans. Paul makes it quite clear that we can’t gain salvation by obeying the OT Law — nor by good works  — ONLY BY FAITH!!

BUT Paul here is talking about The obedience of faith not the obedience of Law. True faith has as an essential element obedience /or submission to Jesus Christ as Lord… It can’t be true faith without an acknowledgement of Christ as LORD.

On the other hand, while obedience is not a good work to merit salvation, BUT if it is true faith it will issue in a life of obedience to the one it claims as Lord.

If we claim to have come to faith in Christ, then our lives must by our obedience to him that that faith is genuine.

To be practical 1 John 3:17 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (NIV)

1 John 4:20 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (NIV)

 

Coming back to the nations – to those who don’t know Christ – can we ignore them and say that evangelism is not important – while at the same time claiming that we are followers of Christ — the same Christ who gave his life for the salvation of the world??!!

 

The eternal God who called us to himself now commands us to “Call all nations to believe and obey him”

 

4) ALL Nations – There is no limit as to who is to be told about Christ.

There are all kinds of theological arguments about election and God’s foreknowledge, about who God chooses etc. BUT when it comes to the practical level of how we as God’s people are to relate to the unbelieving world those arguments should be sidelined.  It is not for us to know the future in terms of who will or will not be saved. It is the responsibility of the church of God to be God’s heralds and to call the world to believe and to obey.

 

ILLUS. I remember Roy Clements saying how when a London City missioner came to his door to share the gospel – he as a young man questioned why he should believe in Christ to which the response came “Because God commands it!”

Quoting from Acts 17 where Paul is in Athens and he says to his hearers … Acts 17:30 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. (NIV)

 

God will condemn those who refuse to bow before him acknowledgeing their sinfulness and their need of a saviour – Christ!

 

God has left his church on earth with the express purpose of calling the nations to obey him. God will judge the nations if they refuse to obey – nations are made up of individuals. AND he will judge his people – us – if we fail to obey his command in calling others to obey Him. That is a very sobering thought!!

 

As Hudson Taylor, that great pioneer missionary to China, said “The great commission is not an option to be considered but a command to be obeyed!”

[Herbert Carson ] – “ The gospel is not like the Crown Jewels, locked in our ecclesiastical strong room. It is to be spread locally, and to the ends of the earth.”

 

It seems to me that many Christians are waiting around in the hope that somehow God will ‘zap’ them and carry them along in a kind of super-spiritual state to witness to friends and neighbours, with no effort on their part.

 

We don’t need to wait for a vision, or dream, or audible voice or a special experience – The instructions to be involved in the task of being a witness to the gospel are abundantly clear AND it is something the whole Church is called to and it is not the peculiar hobby of a few fanatics!

 

It is not always easy, nor always pleasant nor even is it always successful BUT if we claim that Jesus is our LORD then we have no other Choice but to obey him.

 

This should not simply be blind obedience BUT it should be the greatest joy and privilege that the Eternal God would give to us the immense honour of being his co-workers in calling All Nations to believe and obey him!!

 

4. GOD’S WISDOM.

 

Paul concludes his letter in praise of God’s wisdom.

Romans 16:27 27 to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (NIV)

 

God’s wisdom is Christ himself

Colossians 2:3 3 in whom {CHRIST}  are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (NIV)

 

The pinnacle of God’s wisdom in Christ is seen in the cross – absolute foolishness to man’s way of thinking – BUT in that Calvary event is the salvation of the world.

 

1 Corinthians 1:20-24

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (NIV)

 

When we see the power and wisdom of God displayed in salvation through Christ is it any wonder that Paul in 11v33f breaks out in praise to God

Romans 11:33

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out! (NIV)

 

These three verse at the end of this letter encapsulate in a doxology the major theme to the wonderful letter to the Romans.

 

[ summarizes by John Stott]

The power of God to save and to establish; the gospel and the mystery once hidden and now revealed, which are Christ crucified and risen; The Christ-centred witness of OT scripture; The commission of God to make the good news universally known; the summons to all nations to respond with the obedience of faith; And the saving wisdom of God, to whom all glory is due forever.”

 

Romans 16:25-27

25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him — 27 to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (NIV)

 

 

 

DOXOLOGY – “Praise to His Glory”

Romans 16:25-27

 

1. GOD’S POWER

     ² to save

     ² to strengthen

 

2. GOD’S GOSPEL

     ² once hidden in the Old Testament

     ² now revealed in Christ

 

3. GOD’S COMMISSION

     ² the prophetic writings

     ² the command to evangelize

     ² the obedience of faith

     ² to all nations

 

4. GOD’S WISDOM

     ² revealed in salvation

     ² revered in glory

 

 

 

 

Romans 16:25-27

     25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him — 27 to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (NIV)

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Romans 16:1-25 – Greetings and other things

GREETINGS AND OTHER THINGS!

 

Romans 16v1-24

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Paul has come to the end of his letter. If we were looking at this letter as a purely theological document we probably would not bother with this last chapter..

 

ILLUS.: Ever had the experience of being given a letter to read  by a friend because the body of the letter is of interest to you but the letter is from a third party who is not known to you. At the beginning or end there is news about various people who are unknown to you – this part of the letter is of little interest / relevance to you!

          The equivalent of being subjected to hours of some else’s family home movies!! Aunt Agatha and cousin Suzie; and ten minutes of a toddler trying to blow out candles and all the adults ooohing and aaahing!!

 

We can be tempted to treat the end of Paul’s letter with similar disinterest. If we do we will be the poorer for it. There are some valuable insights we can glean from this chapter.

 

1. MANY HELLOS.

 

Romans 16:1-2              1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. (NIV)

 

Phoebe is mentioned only here in the NT – she is probably representative of thousands like her – the unsung heroes/heroines of the faith — we talk much about the apostles and main characters of the NT — but it is clear from Paul comments about Phoebe and the other he mentions that these people made it possible for the Paul’s and Peters to do what they did.

 

Phoebe was one of God’s family – our sister  – and Paul commends her to his Roman readers as she is to visit them and is probably the bearer of the letter.

She is also called a servant OR more likely as some translations and most commentators believe, she was a deaconess. It is clear from the comments Paul makes about her that she was a great help to many .

 

Even in these brief verses we know that she is a godly lady who loves the Lord and shows that by helping the saints – what a commendation from the apostle. And what an example to us of the servant heart that should characterise the people of God.

 

A long list of “Hellos” — 26 people in all [24 by name]  How is it that Paul knew so many people in a city he had never visited. A little background reading will reveal very quickly that travel in those days was much more frequent than we may naturally think. For example we know that Pricilla and Aquilla had been with Paul in Corinth, Syria and Ephesus, They had come from Rome [ although Aquilla was originally from Pontus] they are clearly now back in Rome.

Epenetus [v5b] had been converted in Asia but now living in Rome  …. and we could say similar things about many of the others.

This is not unlike the situation we face today in the big cities of the world – a very mobile cosmopolitan population — and that affects the Church!!

 

We need to recognise that the Church is characterised by diversity and unity!!

 

2. DIVERSITY AND UNITY.

 

This list of name can teach us a lot about the church in Rome.

Obviously it is made up of men and women – gender –

And those from different racial and ethnic backgrounds

And those from different social classes / status

 

RACE – Priscilla and Aquila are Jews as are some of the others like Andronicus and Junias who are Paul’s relatives. Others are Gentiles – this is nothing new Paul has spent much of the letter addressing this issue of Jewish/Gentile relationships

 

STATUS – some of these people have names that were common to slaves:  e.g. Urbanus, Julia, Ampliatus …

Some scholars consider that Aristobulus was a grandson of Herod the Great.

Rufus [v13] could well have been one of the sons of Simon of Cyrene, a nobleman who helped carry Jesus’ cross to Calvary [cf Mark 15v21]

 

GENDER – What I find interesting is that 9 of the 24 named people in this list are woman. Paul is often accused of being a male chauvinist – nothing could be further from the truth.

It seems to me that women had a much higher profile in the early Church that we are often led to believe – and there tasks were not confined to the kitchen. No where in the lists of gifts given in 1Cor.12, Rom 12 and Ephesians 4 is any mention made that some are exclusively for men!!

I know that women in ministry is a hot issue in the Church – we can’t deal with it  in detail here BUT this passage shed some light on the issue.

Junia and Priscilla esp. ….

Priscilla is invariably mentioned along with her husband Aquila – she is named first 5/7x mentioned — was it because she was converted first or was a higher social status or was more dominant — we don’t know!! Whatever the reason Paul seems to recognise rather than criticise her leadership.

 

We are not talking here about the “ins and outs” of male headship [whatever that means??!!} Paul saw distinctive roles for men and women BUT he clearly saw that women were to play a key and leading role in the life of the Church of Christ!

 

Another example in this passage is Junia! [v.7] {not Junias as in NIV – most Gk. scholars agree that this should be a feminine and not a masculine name}

Along with Andronicus, Junia is called an apostle — apostle is used in two way in NT – referring to the 12 like Paul, John, Peter etc .. Apostolic authority!!

Also used of a larger group of people sent out by Church who, today, we would probably call missionaries — [Epaphroditus and Barnabas are further examples] — Junia was clearly recognised as being and outstanding missionary for the Lord.

 

Nowhere does the NT call women elders or presbyters but clearly they played a key and leading role in the life of the early Church…. As do women in this Church and many other Churches and on many mission fields and very often they are not credited with the work they do.

We have many gifted and willing women in this church who serve the Lord with gladness and I thank God for you!!  {We can say the same of the men – in case you are feeling left out!!}

 

Great diversity – look at Binscombe what a motley crew we are: differences in age, background, education, professions, nationalities… – but also we see a fundamental unity in the terminology that Paul uses!!!

 

 

UNITY

In spite all its differences there is a fundamental unity within the Body of Christ –

 

Galatians 3:28 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

 

Within this long list of names we have this strong principle of unity being communicated by Paul —

HOW??      4x he says his friends are “in Christ” [vv.3, 7, 9, 10]

5x “in the Lord” [vv.8, 11, 2x in 12, 13]

2x family language “sister” and “brother” [vv. 1, 14]

4x uses terms “Beloved” and “my Beloved”

4x “fellow-worker” or “fellow-sufferer”

 

How was this unity exhibited in the Church in Roman – we know that the church met in various houses — some have suggested that they met according in their own social or ethnic groupings BUT there is no evidence for that and if that were so it would make Paul’s long discourse about Jews/Gentiles and weak/strong working and worshipping together a waste of time!

It is true we tend to gravitate to people with whom we have most in common BUT if those preferences become barriers to the gospel and to fellowship and spiritual unity then we are rebuilding the dividing walls that Christ died to break down. One of the hall marks of the Christian church should be love across these barriers. That is why Jesus said .. John 13:35 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

 

He ends the section telling them to express their affection for each other by “Greeting with a holy kiss” – Does this mean that we must all start kissing each other??! NO!! This was the way of greeting in those days as it is in many place today!  In France and so on they kiss on both cheeks 2-4 times — sometimes even the men kiss each other!!  Certainly in eastern counties they do

ILLUS.: In Portugal when in confusion I kissed Blair Armstrong the big burly American trucker!!

 

In case we fall into the trap of thinking that unity is something that must be sort and prized at the expense of truth, Paul gives a warning in the next section!!

 

3. WARNING AND WEIGHING.

Romans 16:17-19

17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. (NIV)

 

This warning is very severe – who are these people who Paul warns against? We know that there were problems in the Roman Church; there were differences of opinion that caused tensions. But given how he has gently dealt with these in the letter at great length it is unlikely that these are who he has in mind.

 

We don’t know who he has in mind specifically but it seems that they are those who come into the church of Christ with the express purpose of causing mischief and disrupting the fellowships and contradicting the teachings of scriptures.

 

Paul’s plan of action in regard to these potential trouble-makers is three-pronged viz.          Be on your guard!

Keep your distance!

Keep your wits about you!

 

He urges them to do these three things! And us too esp. in the pluralistic and relativistic society in which we live where the gospel is being challenged and watered-down.

 

BE ON YOUR GUARD!

Romans 16:17

17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.

 

Even at this early stage in the church there was a body of belief that the Apostles taught – which they received from Christ – there was an accepted standard of belief and practice which we now have in the Bible. We need to be on our guard – constantly vigilant – making sure that what we believe and what is being taught is true to this Word!

Even more strongly to the Galatians –Galatians 1:8 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (NIV)

 

How are we to treat those who peddle something contrary to what the Bible teaches?

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!

Romans 16:17-18

17……… Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. (NIV)

 

There are, always have been, those charlatans who masquerade as God’s people and endeavor to use the gospel for their own ends – to satisfy their passion for money of power …

I don’t believe that Paul has in mind those who we simply disagree with on non-essentials of the faith — NO! these are our fellow-believers, like in ch.14, who have slightly different view, but with whom we agree on the essentials of the gospel.

Gross example of this have been people like Jim Jones, who lured many to follow him into the jungle of South America and there commit mass suicide.

On a lesser scale we need to be wary of those who want to have there own little following apart from the fellowship.

Keep your distance – not ignore them in the street or be unkind to them BUT don’t give yourself to such in fellowship!

 

KEEP YOUR WITS ABOUT YOU!

Romans 16:19 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. (NIV)

These deceiver are often those who have the gift of the gab – By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people – Paul’s warning is to NOT be naive – on the contrary we need to be discerning – to be wise – there are many voices in the world calling us to follow their way of thinking and acting – ways that are contrary to the ways of God. And these voices are telling us that it is all right to be materialistic, to be self-assertive, to get what we want, there isn’t really and right or wrong in terms of morality “as long as you are not hurting any one”, ….

 

Keep your wits about you says Paul “be wise about what is good” – Paul praises them for their obedience but it is not blind obedience but discerning obedience. We will not be able to discern good from evil unless we know God mind and will. This is reveal in the Bible and the Holy Spirit both enlightens us to understand God’s mind and strengthens us to obey.

A two-pronged strategy pursuing the GOOD and shunning EVIL – be ….. innocent about what is evil. –  [J B Phillips “I want to see you as experts in good and not even beginners in evil”]

 

Paul has given us three tests to apply to what we believe and how we behave!

  • Does it agree with the Bible?
  • Does it glorify Jesus?
  • Does it promote goodness?

 

DON’T FORGET! OUR BATTLE IS A SPIRITUAL ONE!!

BUT CERTAIN VICTORY!!!

Romans 16:20   20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

 

Paul has written about good and evil and he want us to know that there is no doubt about the outcome of good over evil!

 

You see, behind the false teacher and other enemies of the church is the great arch-enemy of God – Satan himself! In our modern scientific world we tend to downplay and under-estimate the power and activity of the spirit world – which simply because we can’t see it doesn’t mean that it is not real.

 

There are two dangers to which we can go in regard to Satan and the occult world – both of which the devil is exceedingly happy with:   One “Is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel and excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” [C S Lewis in the preface to Screwtape Letters]

 

Paul assures us that Satan is defeated – that happened when Jesus died on the cross – sin and death and hell was crushed under the crucified feet of Christ. Does Paul have Genesis 3v15 in mind hear – probably – God speaking to Satan in the Garden of Eden

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (NIV)

 

While is it true that Satan is defeated, he has not yet conceded defeat, and he will do anything and everything he possibly can to undermine and destroy the Church of God. You know how he does that best – not by a frontal attack of persecution – he doesn’t want us to deny everything the Bible teaches just a few essentials to undermine its power. So heresy is not a denial of the truth, that is too obvious, just a distortion will do!! He doesn’t want us to attack Christ and be an open enemy, just to be indifferent, to not really follow him whole-heartedly! He is quite happy for us to be religious, as long as we don’t commit ourselves to Jesus as Lord! He is quite happy for us to be a nice cozy social club as long as we don’t engage in evangelism and mission!

He wants to cause disunity and disharmony so that we become preoccupied with internal factions and argument, that way our energies are taken up with ourselves and our opinions and prides and egos and little concern is for God’s glory and the spread of the gospel!! Satan is very subtle.

 

Is it any wonder that Paul warns us to be on our guard against false teachers and charlatans who seek to lead astray the people of God!!

See why is so vital that we know what the Bible teaches! That we promote Christ above all else! That we pursue goodness and avoid even the appearance of evil!

 

Rather than being fearful and timid in the face of Satan’s schemings we should take courage and strength from the fact that Christ has defeated him and that The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The victory is won and every Christian is on the victory side!! We have ultimate victory in Christ therefore we can have daily victory in life’s struggles!

 

Such victories would be impossible apart from the grace of God, Thus Paul adds

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (NIV).

 

GREETINGS AND OTHER THINGS!

Romans 16v1-24.

 

1. GREETINGS

      Phoebe     – sister

                           – servant / deaconness

                           – great help to many

      26 ‘hellos’ faces of the Christian family

 

2. DIVERSITY AND UNITY

      Diversity – race

                           – status

                           – gender

            Unity         – “in Christ” [4x]

                                  – “in the Lord” [5x]

                                  – “sister/brother” [2x]

                                  – “fellow-worker/sufferer” [4x]

 

3. WARNING AND TESTING

      warning    – Be on your guard!

                           – Keep your distance!

                           – Keep your wits about you!

            Testing     – Does it agree with the Bible?

                                  – Does it glorify Jesus?

                                  – Does it promote goodness?

           

4. CERTAIN VICTORY

       – our battle is spiritual

       – Satan is and will be defeated

       – we have God’s grace to live victoriously

Romans 15:14-33 – Pointers from Paul’s pattern of ministry

POINTERS FROM PAUL’S PATTERN OF MINISTRY.

 

Romans 15:14-33.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

We have been studying Romans for a number of months now. There are some wonderful things to learn from this letter that Paul, the apostle, wrote to the church in Rome.

  • every human being is by nature alienated from God – we are all sinners – 3v23 ‘ .. the wages of sin is death …’ this is the bad news
  • the good news is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and died and rose again from the dead thus expressing God love and mercy while at the same time satisfying God’s righteousness and justice. So 3v23 continue ‘.. BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ…’
  • this gift of sins forgiven and new spiritual life is received by faith alone – its cannot be earned and it is not deserved – BUT having received it by faith in Christ the repentant sinner stands justified before God.
  • this gift of eternal life is available to ALL without distinction – Jews/ Gentiles, slaves/ free, men/ women, rich/ poor …..
  • Those who accept this gift from God are called to life differently – to life totally for God and to relate to themselves, to others, to government, to enemies, to fellow-believers in a Christlike manner — thus Chapter 12 begins by calling Christians to be ‘..living sacrifices ..’ and to having a  ‘…. renewed mind…’

 

These are some of the basic themes of Romans – these too, are some of the ABSOLUTES of the Christian faith – by the standards of the Bible one cannot claim to be a Christians and not accept these scriptural truths.

 

This book of Romans is not a theological research paper – it is a letter!!

  • Why did Paul write this letter?
  • Why to a church in a city he had never visited?
  • Why to a group of people, most of whom he did not know?

 

This passage 15v14-33 gives us one of the main reason why Paul wrote this letter!

Paul was planning to go to Spain to tell the people there the good news about Jesus Christ.  Paul is convinced that if this good news is true – if this is the only way to God – which is what Jesus taught – then is absolutely true!! It is true for EVERYONE and therefore everyone needs to hear it.

 

Paul understood this truth right from the time of his conversion to Christ. If there is another way to God – if all religions lead to God as some claim then the propagation of the gospel of Christ is a total waste of time and effort.

If, on the other hand, it is true,  and you and I claim to be Christians then we must be involved, in some way, in the propagation/ witness / evangelism / missions / or whatever term is used …

 

Paul writes to the Christians in Rome to encourage them to assist him in his missionary task – and to remind them that they too have responsibility in this venture and not to turn in and become absorbed with internal Church matters.

 

One of Satan’s most effect tools in hindering the Church in its work it to cause internal division and disunity so that energy and time is focused inward instead of outward. When a church looses its vision for evangelism, which involves both good deeds and verbal witness, it has lost the main purpose for which it exists.

 

What can we learn from Paul’s ministry that will help us understand our role as Christians in this world?

 

1. PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS PRIESTLY.

Romans 15:15-16 15 I have written to you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

 

Paul’s language in these verses is that of the Temple ritual of offerings and sacrifice. Paul has spent much time in this letter showing that both Jews and Gentiles are equally acceptable to God. In the Jewish Temple Gentiles were not allowed into the Temple let alone able to offer sacrifices – BUT the OT clearly foresaw a time when the Gentiles would be accepted as the People of God.

Paul has, in this chapter, quoted from the OT 4x to make his point [vv9,10,11,12]

Here the Gentiles not only bring offering but they themselves have become holy, righteous and acceptable to God — is this not what Isaiah foresaw ….

Isaiah 66:20 20 And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD —

 

Paul has played a major part in the coming to God of the Gentiles – he sees this as his priestly duty. Paul is overjoyed by the privilege of this ministry that he has been able to do and says            17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. (NIV)

 

Now Paul’s ministry as an Apostle to the gentiles was unique BUT the principle of fulfilling a priestly function is the duty of all believers.

1 Peter 2:9        9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Christians are priests before God – Christ is our great High Priest and we are to serve under him. The function of a priest is to act as a go between, as God representative. Christians, both individually and collectively as a church, are God’s representative in the world. And like the OT priests our purpose is to worship God and witness for God is the world – in so doing we glorify Him!!

We are to bear the name of Christ before the world by how we live and what we say – by our good deeds and our witness in the hope that others too will come to know God through Christ.

 

When people come to Christ through our witness they are our offering to God – it is God’s work and he MUST get the Glory and honour – we are simply him servants!!

To what extent are you and I fulfilling our priestly duty – we will each have different roles but all have a part to play!!

 

2. PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS POWERFUL.

 

Romans 15:17-19 a        17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done — 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way round to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (NIV)

 

His was a powerful ministry because it is in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy should be involved in every part of the Christian’s life and experience from the moment of conversion – and was active in bringing to conversion. Anything that is ever going to be accomplished for God by any of us will and must be by the Spirit – Zechariah 4:6 6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)

 

Paul doesn’t boast about his exploits – what he has done – he talks about what Christ has done – we must be constantly on our guard that we do not draw attention to ME instead of to HIM. In church we must be cautious about those who are always seeking to draw attention to what they have done and experienced. The glory belongs to God!!

 

What does he glory in? That they are happy, self-fulfilled, reached their full potential, never sick, life is comfortable…???  NO!!!! in leading the Gentiles to obey God

OBEDIENCE!! This is the objective of Paul’s ministry – he states this at the beginning of the letter –Romans 1:5 5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

 

True faith in God results in obedience to God – Life for you at the moment may be comfortable and happy OR difficult and troubled – neither in itself is a sign of God’s pleasure or displeasure — BUT are you obeying God’s word??

 

Paul has obeyed God’s word – by what I have said and done.

So often we want God to do things through us or in us – we want to see the evidence of God working in our lives – a deeper relationship with him – people coming to God through our witness – BUT I believe that we can’t expect to have these deeper levels of fellowship with God and knowledge of Him IF we are not obeying him in the foundational truth that we already know — As we obey what we know God teaches new things – Is it that maybe we want the meat while refusing  to drink the milk??!!

 

SIGNS AND MIRACLES – by the power of signs and miracles – [and wonders] – Why these signs/miracles? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:12 12 The things that mark an apostle — signs, wonders and miracles — were done among you with great perseverance. (NIV)

There purpose was to authenticate the unique ministry of the apostles. We should not be surprised by that – this was the time when the genuineness and truth of the gospel was being established. As you read through the NT you see that Jesus and then the apostles were the ones who performed the majority of these miracles.

What about today?? Can God perform miracles today??

1) There are two extreme positions that are around – That the age of miracles is past – that it ended with the apostles.        Well, it would be wrong to impose limitations are the creator of the universe.

 

2) That signs/wonders/miracles are everyday occurrences that should be the regular experience of all Christians. Well, even in the Bible miracles were not everyday occurrences. We have clusters of miracles around the times of Moses, Elijah/Elisha, and Jesus/the early days of the Apostles. There are others signs and miracles but they are rare. We may read about two on a page BUT must remember that there were often years/decades/even centuries between.                                                        Miracles were clearly performed through Paul BUT He himself had a condition that was not healed / he instructs Timothy to 1 Timothy 5:23

23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. // When Paul left Miletus Trophimus was ill and had to be left behind [2Tim.4:20]

 

Not saying that we should not pray and ask God to intervene // we do -the elders have done what James instructs and anointed people with oil and prayer for them to recover [the elders have done that for me!!]

 

God is sovereign and will do as he pleases BUT it is WRONG to seek miracles to advance one’s own power of fame // it is WRONG to seek miracles for entertainment // or to satisfy one’s curiosity.   Much of the modern claim and advertising about  signs/wonders is more to do with self-glory than God’s glory.  Many of the claims are wild and unsubstantiated.

 

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying God can’t do signs/wonders/miracles. BUT most of the healing claimed today are not the kind we see in NT – people with genetic disorders from birth healed instantaneously [ e.g. someone like Paul De Vere]

 

God in his grace allows people who are sick to recover with /without medical intervention – often in response to prayer. BUT wild sensational claims leave me very skeptical  …..

#ILLUS: Daystar News – from Cornerstone Church at Sandown Park –June 1997 . 4 claims of healing on first two pages – on third page sending medical supplies to children of Chernobyl – Why not send the two pastors who claim to have gifts of healing.

 

Paul’s ministry was in the power of the spirit and what he offers to God as a result of that power in the salvation of the Gentiles.

I have seen people healed in response to prayers – e.g. a Muslim man a friend and I once prayed for.. But far superior to that was when I saw a man who was an alcoholic on 1-2 bottles of brandy a day and 60 cigarettes  for 30 years/ who had lost his job // seeing him come to Christ through reading the scriptures — his drinking and smoking stopped instantly and he never went back. I know it is true for that man was my father – that was a miracle!!

Every time a sinner repents and come to Christ – whether it was a dramatic conversion like my father’s or a slow realisation of God’s truth in Christ – that is the greatest miracle of all.

This is the miracles we should be pursuing with all our energy – the presentation of the gospel to the world so  others may experience the miracle of salvation!!!

 

This was Paul’s passion – This was Christ’s purpose for his death and resurrection!! To this task he commissions his Church.

 

 

3. PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS PIONEERING.

Romans 15:19b-21 …….. So from Jerusalem all the way round to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written:

“Those who were not told about him will see,

and those who have not heard will understand.” (NIV)

 

Paul was a pioneer missionary and evangelist – that is not every Christians gift – but that purpose/that goal to preach the gospel where Christ was not known – must always be the mainstay of the Church’s agenda. Every Christian is called to be part of the gospel task force to take the gospel to the world – some will be in the front line and others in supporting roles. When the church ceases to have as her goal preaching Christ to the world she denies the purpose for her existence!

 

Ask yourself “How am I contributing to this task?”

Young people as you consider your futures/ careers ask yourself “How best can I prepare to be most effect in Christ’s world wide mission?” Will it be in business? in teaching? medical world? at Home or abroad? as a missionary? church worker? policeman? housewife and mother??

 

In October an evangelist, Paul Hinton, is coming to spend a week with us – God has gifted him to do this BUT he must have people to speak to – that is our role – laying the ground for his coming – inviting people // friends and family who for Christ’s sake we love and care for in order to bring them to Jesus!!

 

Paul’s goal was to go to Spain – our goal must always be to go to those who don’t know Christ – across the street or office or the world – different gift and abilities focused on one task

1 Corinthians 3:6-10 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow……. ……..10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. (NIV)

 

4. PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS PRAYERFUL.

Romans 15:30   30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (NIV)

 

Whatever our gifts and whatever our practical role in the gospel enterprise we are all called to prayer.

“If we fail to pray, we fail” Prayer is a mystery. But when we pray according to God’s will he answers!

Paul calls the Romans to join in the struggle by pray – pray is not passive – it is not doing nothing – prayer is hard work!!

People sometimes say, “There is nothing I can do except pray!!” Without prayer our efforts are useless! Prayer is not just about God’s work — it is deep involvement in God’s work.

 

So I ask you — So when the church meets for prayer on Thursday evenings [when not HGs] and on Sunday 10:00am  “ARE YOU THERE??!!”

Let me ask you — Do you pray??? When ?? every day?? once a week/month?? only in a crisis??

 

Think of the Smalls in Paris and Stanfords in Bakina Faso and Alan and Lorraine Knowles in SA – and you may say “I can’t minister in those places!!” YES YOU CAN!!! PRAY!!!

 

2 Corinthians 1:8-11  8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as  you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (NIV)

We don’t need simply too multiple prayers but we need to learn how to pray – like Jacob we need to learn to wrestle with God in prayer.

What should we pray – comes down to one theme — “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” — “Your will be done in my life // in my marriage// in my career// in my church//  — and in the life of my spouse, children, family, friends, colleagues, the nation, the world…..”

 

What is God’s will? That the people of the nations of the world come to know and worship Jesus Christ as Lord!!

 

To that end we are to be people fulfilling our priestly duty, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to those who do not yet know Christ, constantly in pray to God that he will work in us and through us.

 

 

POINTERS FROM PAUL’S PATTERN OF MINISTRY

 

Romans 15:14-33.

 

1. Paul’s ministry was priestly [v16-17]

  • Christians, both individually and collectively, are God’s representatives in this world

 

2. Paul’s ministry was powerful [v18-19a]

  • Christians can fulfil their responsibilities only by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit

 

3. Paul’s ministry was pioneering [v19b-22]

  • Christians have been entrusted with the task of telling the world about Jesus Christ

 

4. Paul’s ministry was prayerful [v30]

  • Christians are instructed to bring everything to God in prayer saying …..   “Your will be done …”

 

 

Romans 14:1-15:13 – “Accept one another”

“ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER!”

Romans 14:1-15:13.

 

Preliminary comments: This is a very long section – we could take many weeks to look at it and that would be valuable. The danger is that we can loose the overall thrust of what Paul is driving at. We can fall into the trap of getting lost in amongst the trees and end up ‘not being able to see the wood for the trees’.

 

It seems clear from 14v1 and 15v7 that the subject of this passage is “accepting one another”. In what ways were Paul’s readers not accepting one another? How does he advise them to behave? And on what does he base his instructions to the Romans Church??!

 

INTRODUCTION

Differences of opinion about Christian belief, patterns of behaviour, styles of worship. These are issue that the church has had to grapple with right from its inception.

  • Should a Christian eat certain foods or not {e.g. should a Christian eat food that has been blessed by a Muslim priest – halaal food}?
  • Should a Christian drink alcohol?
  • Should a Christian play sport / work on a Sunday?
  • Should a Christian play the Lottery?
  • Should a Christian go shopping of Sunday?
  • What is the correct mode of baptism?
  • Should a Christian go to a pub or night club?

What about style of music/ worship/ the way we celebrate communion/ …. There are many areas of Christian life and practice that are not clear cut/ black and white issues — How are we to relate to each other regarding these issues??

 

This is precisely the issue that Paul is addressing in this long section of his letter to the Romans.

He begins with a positive statement –

Romans 14:1  Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. (NIV)

He then goes on to tell his readers [and us] that they are to avoid three basic things which are followed by reasons why.

 

1. Don’t despise or condemn fellow-Christians over disputable matters.[14v1-12]

2. Don’t cause fellow-Christians to stumble over disputable matters. [14v13-22]

3. Don’t please yourself, rather accept others. [15v1-13]

 

 

VERSE 1 sets the scene!!

What exactly was the problem in Rome?

Who are these weak and strong Christians? the two groups Paul names.

WEAK – Paul does not mean those who are weak-willed, i.e. easily led into temptation // this is not a weakness of character. Rather he is talking about a fellow-believer who seems to have an over-sensitive conscience.

 

Who are these two groups?

It would seem WEAK are mostly Jewish Christians who were continuing to observe the Jewish food laws about not eating ‘unclean’ animals and religious Holy Days like the Sabbath and other festivals.

The STRONG are probably Gentile-Christians for whom all food is from God and therefore acceptable to eat and that all days are for serving and worshipping God and we shouldn’t make one day more important than another.

 

Apart from the Jewish dietary laws about unclean meat there could be the added problem, as in Corinth [1 Cor.8], that some of the meat had been offered to idols and in order to avoid the possibility of eat such meat some ‘WEAK’ Christians had become vegetarian.

 

The STRONG are characterized by liberty and Paul identifies with this group —

Romans 15:1     1 We who are strong …… –

The WEAK are characterized by legalism – their Jewish consciences would not allow them to eat this suspect meat or treat holy days as normal days!

 

It is easy to see how tensions arose – esp. when it came to ‘Bring-and-share’ Church meals together. You can just imagine Mr. Claudius biting into a juicy piece of honey – glazed ham while Mr. Isaacs nibbles on his lettuce and tomato sandwich!!!

 

Paul instruction to these two groups within the Roman Church are that they are to accept one another — The Strong are to accept the weak ‘without passing judgement’ – does this mean that we are never to criticise or question?? NO!   Note that Paul adds ‘on disputable matters’ the non-essentials!!

 

NOW acceptance and tolerance are very popular concepts today! In many respects it is good BUT we need to be cautious about unconditional acceptance. The idea that we are to accept anyone, even into Church membership, with no questions asked and no conditions laid down is portrayed as reflecting God’s love.   HOWEVER, God’s love is unconditional BUT his acceptance of us is not as he requires repentance and faith in Christ!!

 

1. DON’T DESPISE OR CONDEMN FELLOW-CHRISTIANS OVER DISPUTABLE MATTERS. [14v2-12]

 

Paul sets out a number of reasons why we are not to despise or condemn fellow-believers?

1.1. God has accepted them! [v2-3]

One has liberty to eat everything but the weak eat only vegetables!

The meat-eater must not look down on or despise the non-eater NOR must the non-eater condemn the meat-eater.

 

May seem very remote to you and me.

BUT

ILLUS.: When Janet and I work as missionary amongst the Muslim community in SA – we had a number of converts who needed to be intergrated into the Church – In the SA system at the time Asian people lived in certain areas BUT most in the Asian Churches had come from Hindu or nominal Christian backgrounds. For the Muslim convert it was extremely difficult to fit in – Those from Hindu background found eating beef difficult – from Muslim background eating pork difficult. Muslims were not used to worshipping with men and women together!! …..

 

But the reason the two groups need to accept each other is because God accepts them. Thus our attitude to others is to reflect God’s attitude to them.

 

1.2. Each is responsible to Christ as Lord! [v4-9]

Each Christian is a servant of Christ and ultimately each one stands or falls before God alone. I do not have the right to judge another’s relationship to Christ in regard to disputable matters.

Paul now uses a second illustration, this time of a ‘day’. Some wanted to observe special days, presumably Jewish festivals and holy days. Who is right??

 

ILLUS.: Today we have the ‘Keep Sunday Special’ campaign. Some are passionate about it others don’t bother too much.

Sport on Sunday— Jonathan Edwards [not 18thC American preacher] but the current British Triple-jump champion — a strong Christian who competes on a Sunday. AND Michael Jones the NZ – All Black rugby player, one of the best flankers in World rugby, He will never play on a Sunday also a strong Christian.

Both are committed to Jesus – but each have different views!!

God has given them the sporting ability for which they are to thank him and they want to use it for their Lord!

The same as the one who eats or abstains —

Romans 14:6 6 b …….He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. (NIV)

A very practical test then is :-  “Can I thank God for it?” and

“Can I do this as unto the Lord?”

 

The reason being that as Christians we are the Lord’s whether in life or death – we are to be his – after all says Paul Christ lived and died for us thus he is Lord of the living and the dead!!

Paul moves from the mundane petty differences between believers to the relationship of each believer to the crucified, risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ!

We are each to live for Christ and to respect our fellow-Christians relationship with Christ as their Lord!

 

1.3. Remember that you are ‘family’! [v10a]

Romans 14:10a    You, then, why do you judge {look down on} your brother? …..

We must not only NOT condemn or despise our fellow-believer because Christ is their Lord BUT also because we are related – we are family.

The ‘weak’ may think the strong are brash and arrogant and the ‘strong’ may think the weak are feeble and legalistic BUT still they are family!!

 

1.4. Remember that God is the final judge! [v10d – 13a]

Paul could be echoing Jesus words —

Matthew 7:1      1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (NIV)

Put in context – Jesus is not saying we should suspend our critical faculties as in verse 15 of the same chapter we are told to ‘watch out for false prophets’.

Paul makes some vital points here…

  • God is the universal judge [v11]– ‘every knee will bow … every tongue will confess’. no one in all the universe falls outside God’s jurisdiction.
  • God is the individual’s judge [v12] — ‘each one of us …’ we all stand among those who will be judged we therefore have no right to judge others when we ourselves will be subject to God’s judgement.
  • God’s judgement seat is at the end of time — throughout the NT we are taught to have an eternal perspective on things. So often we get caught up in the present and are preoccupied with trivia and we lose sight of the big picture. And when we look up – when we get an eternal perspective so much of what we think is important pales into insignificance and we realise that what we eat /or don’t eat or what we do/or don’t do on a particular day is unimportant in the light of eternity.

 

 

2. DON’T CAUSE FELLOW-CHRISTIANS TO STUMBLE OVER DISPUTABLE MATTERS. [14v13-22]

 

Romans 14:13   13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling-block or obstacle in your brother’s way. (NIV)

There is a responsibility on all Christians not to cause each other to stumble in their faith and practice – clearly Paul appeals to the strong to defer to the weak.

Evidently the strong are in the right -14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. – all food is acceptable. BUT it is so easy to behave wrongly when you are right.

I know I am right and if you can’t handle my legitimate behaviour then that is your problem —- mine conscience is free and I can do as I like!!”

No says Paul even if you are right that doesn’t mean you can run rough shod over the weaker brother!!

 

2.1. Remember that your Brother is valuable!

Romans 14:15 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. (NIV)

Your fellow-believer is far more valuable than food – remember that he/she was valuable enough for Jesus to die for!! If you run roughshod over him/her you are not only cause him/her to stumble you are actually destroying him/her and more than that you are destroying a work of Christ – he die for that person!!!

This is what he means in v20  20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.

 

We are called not to damage our fellow-believer BUT to build him/her up v19  Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (NIV)

 

2.2. Remember that the kingdom of God is more important than my individual rights!!

Paul’s plead is that the body of Christ be built up – edified. The good of the community / church is more important than a display by an individual believer of his/her rights.

 

Paul is very blunt – no doubt there were some red faces in Rome when the letter was read- “Don’t damage the Kingdom for the sake of a piece of meat”.

In a world where everyone is fighting for their rights the Christians are called to forego their rights for the sake of the Kingdom.

Don’t give to disputable matters a higher importance than God’s kingdom.

 

 

 

2.3. Remember that some things which are wrong for you are not always wrong for everyone!

Don’t make your experience normative for everyone else – If you have a weak conscience and eating meat bothers you then don’t do it as it is wrong for you.

If you feel it is wrong to play sport on Sunday then don’t play BUT don’t condemn the one who does.

If you are convinced that baptism by immersion is right and sprinkling is not, don’t despise the one who has been sprinkled as a baby.

You may have private convictions about some disputable things but don’t make a public issue out of them!!

 

3. DON’T PLEASE YOURSELF, RATHER ACCEPT OTHERS. [15v1-13]

 

Romans 15:1     1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. (NIV)

The natural inclination of the strong is to crush the weak and take advantage of the situation – but we are not to live like that. Rather we are to do good to — and edify our neighbour!! NOT pleasing people as a way of currying favour NOR seeking flattering But rather that we might do them some positive good.

 

3.1. Christ is our example! [v3-4]

Jesus didn’t live to please himself — he gave himself in the service of God which expressed itself in the service of others.

Of all people Jesus had the right to please himself – he was in very nature God YET he gave up his rights in order to serve others.

 

3.2. Christ is our unity! [v5-6]

The kind of unity that Paul encourages is not just any kind of unity! There is unity and comradeship in a sports Club or a Political party.

The kind of unity that God requires is unity in Christ – he is the focus and the more we agree with him and about him the more we will agree with each other!!

When we focus on the essentials, the disputable matters begin to become less and less important.

When we take our eyes off Jesus and His agenda and become preoccupied with our own petty likes and dislikes – divisions and damage result in the body of Christ.

 

3.3. Christ accepted you! [v7]

Romans 15:7     7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

At the beginning of chapter 14 Paul urged the ‘strong’ to accept the ‘weak’ — here he calls for mutual acceptance! The motivation is that we have been accepted by Christ — and this attitude will bring glory to God!!

3.4. Christ became a servant! [v8-13]

In this section Paul slips back to the issue of division between Jews and Gentiles as the two issues are so closely related — the point being that Christ became a servant of Jews and Gentiles // or strong and weak // of all // in order to bring us to God!!

 

 

It is easy to see how this is how we are to treat // accept each other!

That we are to prefer each other and not give unnecessary offense to those who are ‘weak’ — cause them to stumble!

How does this work in practice??

A number of issues:-

1) If we always give way to the weak – and never offend – we would never do anything – someone is always offended by something!!  So we need to say to the weak // to those who are easily offended “Is it not equally unacceptable to TAKE unnecessary offense as it is to CAUSE unnecessary offense??”

 

2) How do we determine what is a disputable matter and what is not? What may be disputable to you may be totally indisputable to someone else.

Three categories — ABSOLUTES — CONVICTIONS — PREFERENCES — The difficulty is that what is a conviction to me may be an absolute to you!!

It is not always easy to distinguish between the essentials and the non-essentials ..

Paul has told us that we each must be convinced in our own minds BUT we know that our minds and consciences are not always right and they therefore need to be educated by the Word of God – there is not substitute for detailed, in depth study of Scripture.

 

3) Given these difficulties, we are still called to act in LOVE in all things.

We are to remember that our fellow-Christians are those for whom Christ died!!

We are to honour and not despise them. serve and not harm them. To do what is for the GOOD of the Kingdom //the Church recognising that the good of the body is more important than the rights of one individual to exercise their liberty.

 

Conclusion.

We are called to be strong in the Faith that was once delivered to the saints – The basis of our Faith are the essentials of the Gospel – and we can not appeal to love to deny these essentials. The Faith is first, before love.

In the non-essentials love is primary and we cannot appeal to zeal for the truth as an excuse for failure to love.

[ILLUS.: Durban North – the reformed group who left – would sit in the front row shaking their heads at the preacher – their doctrine may have been right BUT there was not love shown]

Faith instructs our consciences. Love respects the conscience of others.

Faith gives liberty/ freedom. Love limits its exercise.

 

In the non-essentials Christians are so free that we are free NOT to exercise our freedom. The ‘strong are free to eat the meat BUT they are so free that they are free not to eat it!!!

 

As you have listened you have probably had a list of people going through your mind to whom this applies – You may be saying to yourself  “I hope so-and-so is listening!!”  BUT God is talking to you – NOT saying “Others must accept and defer to you BUT YOU must accept and defer to others!!!”

 

“In essential unity.

In non-essentials liberty,

In all things charity.” [Richard Baxter]

 

 

“ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER”

 

Romans 14:1 – 15:13

 

1.  DON’T   DESPISE   OR   CONDEMN   FELLOW-

    CHRISTIANS OVER DISPUTABLE MATTERS. [14v2-12]

1.1. Remember that God has accepted them! [v2-3]

1.2. Remember that each is responsible to Christ as Lord! [v4-9]

1.3. Remember that we are ‘family’! [v10a]

1.4. Remember that God is the final judge! [v10b-13a]

 

2. DON’T CAUSE FELLOW-CHRISTIANS TO STUMBLE        OVER DISPUTABLE MATTERS. [14v13-23]

2.1. Remember that your Brother is valuable! [v14-16]

2.2. Remember that the kingdom of God is more important than my individual rights!! [v17-21]

2.3. Remember that some things which are wrong for you   are not always wrong for everyone! [v22-23]

 

3.  DON’T PLEASE YOURSELF,   RATHER ACCEPT      OTHERS. [15v1-13]

3.1. Christ is our example! [v3-4]

3.2. Christ is our unity! [v5-6]

3.3. Christ accepted you! [v7]

3.4. Christ became a servant! [v8-13]

 

“In essential unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity.”

[Richard Baxter]

 

+

Romans 12:17-21 – Two “wrongs” don’t make a “right”!

TWO “WRONGS” DON’T MAKE A “RIGHT”!

 

Romans 12:17-21

 

INTRODUCTION

 

ILLUS.: Last year – neighbours kids – golf in garden – ball over fence a few time – warned of  breaking a window – run ins with them before – full of cheek and abuse – sure enough a window was broken – spoke to father “What must I do about it?” was his response – I was not happy!!!!!

 

Response – they never did pay for window – I had all kinds of thoughts many of which were far from charitable – including a brick through their window [too obvious] // scratch the car — At least they were only thoughts and my conscience won the day ..

 

The desire in all of us to get even /retaliate is very strong. When wronged//been hurt or someone we love is wronged or hurt everything in us cries out for justice/ for the wrong to be righted. We want to hurt in return. We don’t like to see someone getting away with wrongdoing!!

 

It is natural to want justice BUT so often if retaliatory action is taken it is over the top. Retaliation is seldom getting even but it is usually giving back plus a bit extra!! Our emotions get in the way, our judgment is clouded, ….

 

As Christians, however, God calls us not to act naturally but supernatural.

Our instructions are to NOT  retaliate!!

 

That is the main point of this last paragraph in Romans 12.

 

There is a fourfold negative command –

 

  • ‘Do not curse’ v14
  • ‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil’ v17
  • ‘Do not take revenge’ v19
  • ‘Do not be overcome by evil’ v21

 

These verses all say the same thing is a different way – retaliation and revenge are not to be part of Christian attitude and behaviour.

Christians are called followers of Jesus – Well then we had better follow him – Jesus never took revenge/ he never hit back in either word or action

1 Peter 2:23 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. ……. (NIV)

 

Tit-for-tat games start at toddler level – “You didn’t give me a sweet so I won’t let you play with my doll!!”  Childish reactions we say! but as young people and adults are we not often guilty of similar attitudes and actions even if on a more sophisticated level?

 

Non-retaliation has always been the what of God’s people are called to.

Luke 6:27-28     27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. (NIV)

We find this teaching in the OT as well.

Proverbs 20:22  Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you. Proverbs 24:29  Do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me; I’ll pay that man back for what he did.”

 

Such non-retaliation is not easy – these instructions are hard enough to follow as they stand BUT Christian behaviour is never to be purely negative –SO Paul adds to each of these negatives, positive attitudes and actions we are to have!!

 

1. ‘BLESS, DON’T CURSE’ v14.

 

We dealt with this verse last time —

Romans 12:14   14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (NIV)

We said that if we are going to have a transformed life and renewed mind [v.2] that implies becoming more and more Christlike – A Christ who on the way to the cross could pray for his persecutors “Father forgive them…”

What about those who have hurt you – inside and outside the Church –

  • That family member who has taken you for granted –
  • that friend who has let you down
  • that boss who makes your life a misery
  • that fellow-Christian who irritates you
  • that neighbour whose cat damages your garden – or breaks your window !!!- music too loud – parks the car in your space ….

Do you avoid – hold a grudge – try to get even – wish some harm came to them??

— that a car would run over the cat!!! —

We are to bless them – pray for them – do good to them.

 

2. BE PEACEMAKERS, DON’T REPAY WITH EVIL v17-18

 

Romans 12:17-18   Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV)

 

Even in the OT individuals never had the right to administer punishment on an personal level – When we read ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ we are not talking about individuals taking the law into their own hands rather this was the job of the civil authorities. This is what Paul will be dealing with in the next section.

 

When we have a vindictive spirit it destroys our Christian distinctiveness – and if we do not stand out as different in our words and actions people will say, “Those Christians are no different from us!’ — How then can we possibly be successful in winning people to Jesus Christ.

 

NOT just refusing to be vengeful BUT positively doing good – seeking peace. HOW?

1) BE SURE TO LIVE RIGHT.

reminds of

Proverbs 3:3-4  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man. (NIV)

 

Our lives need to be honest and upright and genuine –

  • making sure my work is done properly / my affair in order
  • my homework is MY work and not copied …

 

Matthew 5:16 ……., let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (NIV)

 

2) AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU LIVE AT PEACE

The Bible is full of passages that call for us to live at peace – Jesus called those who were peace-makers ‘blessed’ …

Matthew 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (NIV)

 

We are to take the initiative to make peace where there is none – is a world that is full of strife and conflict not just between nations but between families and individuals — Christians are to be peace-brokers where possible AND esp. where we are personally involved in a conflict situation.

 

HOWEVER it is not to be peace at ANY price!! – as far as it depends on you – qualifies the effort for peace!!

It is not always possible to make your peace with another party — How often we see this in marriage breakdown where one partner is willing to work at the relationship and do whatever it take to make it work but the other is determined not to – in such a case it is impossible to resolve.

Sometimes it is impossible to make peace because the other party lays down conditions for reconciliation that would involve unacceptable moral compromises .. the business partner/boss who will restore a working relationship on condition you overlook/take part in under-the-counter deals.

Clearly these are situations were peace is not possible!!

 

3.  BE A SERVANT, NOT AN AVENGER. v19-20

 

Romans 12:19-20 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (NIV)

 

As a counter to the negative command not to take the law into our own hands Paul reminds us that that is God’s prerogative.

leave room for God’s wrath – it is not our place as individuals to wreak vengeance on other or to ‘play God’. It is not our place to retaliate of to inflict punishment.

Ultimately God has the final say – after all he knows all the details – nothing escapes him – and he will deal justly with everyone and he will punish those who deserve to be punished.

We are not saying that judging and punishment of evil should not happen – clearly evil deserves to be punished and should be – BUT it is God’s prerogative and not ours.

In the present age – God has given the administration of justice to the State – not that they always get it right or that all governments are good – BUT justice will finally be expressed by God ….

Romans 2:5 ….. the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (NIV)

 

Again Jesus is our example to follow – he was the object of far deeper and greater suffering and anguish than we will know and it was certainly unjustly laid on him yet what does Peter say

1 Peter 2:23 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (NIV)

 

More than just being an example consider our Lord, by suffering in our place and removing God’s wrath from us, wrath which we undoubtedly deserved, shouldn’t we refrain from taking revenge against others.

 

Here comes the positive counter — BE a Servant to your enemy.

It is hard enough being a servant to a friend let alone an enemy.

BUT we are told to go out of our way to do good to our enemies … those who cause us trouble and make our lives difficult …

– taking positive action towards people…

  • still inviting that catty sister-in-law or obnoxious uncle to tea
  • giving a Christmas card to the Boss who has made your life hell
  • helping your fellow student with their project inspite of the horrible comments she made about you last week …

 

So when we have been badly treated we should respond not with concealed resentment or feeling of anger BUT with kindness!!

The purpose … In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. What does this mean?

Most likely … these burning coals are not a punishment – the purpose is not to scold their scalps!!

It was a way of a person expressing deep shame and contrition – it was s sign of repentance and sorrow – these were place there by the person him/herself.

The acts of kindness – heaping coals on – is intended to heal not hurt; to win over not to alienate, to shame into repentance.

We are to ‘love our enemies’ and the greatest love we can show anyone is to bring them to Christ to experience the greatest love of all – this should be our aim — So the challenge when wronged is to see this as an opportunity to act as Jesus did – to offer the hand of kindness NOT the fist of revenge!!

 

4. GOOD OVERCOMES EVIL, RETALIATION COMPOUNDS EVIL v21

 

Romans 12:21 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV)

 

This is the climax of Paul argument. He began the chapter telling us to be living sacrifices, having transformed lives and renewed minds –

Here he holds out two alternatives – there is no middle ground  –

we can EITHER

  • succumb to evil by being bitter, vengeful, spiteful and cursing those who harm us or our loved ones … it can then engulf us and defeat us ..

OR

  •  we can overcome evil by refusing to retaliate AND take positive steps to bless those who persecute us … making sure we are doing good … seeking to be peacemakers … working hard at trying to win over those who oppose us … IF we behave in this way we will be overcoming evil with good.

 

As you have listened this morning – Is there some one who has come to mind? someone you resent// are bitter towards // someone who has hurt you //….and you would like to get even  OR  who you would like to see them get their comeuppance.

There may be nothing you can do – except pray for them — but maybe you can do something practical.

Perhaps you have never done them actual harm BUT have you positively tried to bless them, do good to them, to serve them in some way!! You know who you are thinking about! You might feel that you are in the right and they were the one who wronged you – perhaps so! But as Christians we are most likely to react wrongly when we are in the right!!

God calls us to both act and react in a Christlike way.

 

This kind of attitude can’t be obtained by human effort or exertion – it is gained only by faith. Faith in a Saviour who did not retaliate or call down curses on the heads of his persecutors BUT who endured shame and humiliation so that we might be justified before God.

He not only calls us to follow him and his example in this BUT he give us the power of the indwelling Spirit to do it!

 

 

TWO “WRONGS” DON’T MAKE A “RIGHT”

 

Romans 12:14,17-21.

 

Four negative commands:

 

  • Do not curse’ v14
  • ‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil’ v17
  • ‘Do not take revenge’ v19
  • ‘Do not be overcome by evil’ v21

 

 

 

Each negative has a positive countermeasure:

 

1. Bless, do not curse. v14

 

2. Be peacemakers, do not repay with evil. v17-18

     

3. Be a servant, do not be an avenger. v19-20

 

4. Good overcomes evil, revenge adds to evil. v21

Romans 12:9-16 – How to be a Christian without being religious!

HOW TO BE A CHRISTIAN WITHOUT BEING RELIGIOUS!

“How genuine is your Christian love?”

 

Romans 12:9-16.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

LOVE – this is what we are going to talk about! It is a wonderful word full of meaning and happy emotion while at the same time being an empty word full of meaninglessness and painful emotion.

A word ranging from superficial preference to deep sacrificial action // from “I love chocolate!” to “I love you enough to die for you!”

 

The word “LOVE” is use to describe a sexual act between a prostitute and a curb-crawler OR  between a husband and wife deeply committed to each other in a life-long relationship.

 

The word on its own is really quite meaningless – it must be placed in a context to be properly understood.

 

The first word of v.9 is ‘love’ – Paul could have simply said to the Roman Christians – “Love each other!” Maybe the people in the 1st C had the same problem we have – “What is love?”

 

Where does our understanding of love come from? Most of it probably comes form the way we are treated by others esp. our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters.  BUT much of the popular romantic idea of love comes from novels, movies and soap operas – it is a love that is full of desire and want – “What is in it for me?” – “How can the other person satisfy my needs?” Which is ultimately not love but lust!

 

“Love can wait to give; but lust can’t wait to get!” Josh McDowell.

 

When love is reduce to selfish animal desire it becomes destructive – when love it

‘What can I get?’ rather than ‘What can I give?’ it destroys.

 

Jill Briscoe “The world is littered with the debris of what eros {sexual desire/love} has promised but been unable to provide!”

 

Broken homes and destroyed marriages – litter our society!

 

Love is not only to be sort in romantic relationships – distorted love is seen in families – parents pushing children for the Parent’s ambition rather than the child’s good – // In Churches where Christians pursue their own agendas, seek their own fulfilment to the detriment of the body of Christ. WHY? because at the foundation of human nature is the desire to promote self // and satisfy self!

 

True love – in whatever relationship it expresses itself – is always love which says ‘Let me give to you!’ and not ‘Give me!’

 

We Bible gives us plenty of direction as to what love is and how love should behave – love is not JUST emotion nor is it passive!

 

These verses [9-16] may at first glance seem as if they are simply a random collection of advice. BUT we begin to see that they are different facets of love – how as Christians we are to live and to relate to each other!

 

It is not without significance that here in Romans, after speaking about the gifts , Paul immediately speaks about the practical nitty-gritty of Christian love // he does the same in 1 Cor. in the middle of two chapter of spiritual gifts [12&14] 1Cor 13 deals with the supremacy of love // Eph.4 the only other passage on the gifts – What follows? but a long section on practical Christian living.

 

From these three passages and many others in NT the point is abundantly clear – no matter how gifted you are, no matter how much theological knowledge you have, no matter how much scripture  you have memorized — you can be born again, be baptized, give your money to the Church, send old clothes to missionaries and even put scripture verses on your Christmas cards BUT the question always comes down to this – “How is your love??” How real/genuine is your love for God and others?

 

In vv.9-16 it is as if Paul is holding up the diamond of love and simply commenting on some of the facets he sees.

 

There are 12! [This probably the first 12 point sermon you have heard and you are already thinking that you

hope it is the last!!]

 

1. GENUINENESS

Romans 12:9     9 Love must be sincere. ……….

Love agape – until now in Romans Paul has used this only of God – demonstrated on the cross [5:8]// poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit  [5:5]// a love that refuses to let us go [8:35.39].

 

Now he uses the same word to describe the kind of love we are to have – whatever agape may have meant in the secular world of the time Paul and the other NT writers redefine its meaning by pointing to what God has done in Christ.

 

This kind of love is a sincere love  – lit. without hypocrisy – This was a word used in the first century theatre – hypocrite was the play-actor who would speak from behind different masks – playing various characters.

God requires our love for each other to be genuine/ sincere – not pretense love.

Not hypocritical love – a contradiction in terms; if it is hypocrisy it is not love; if it is sincere love it is not hypocrisy.

The kiss of Judas was the grossest form of pretense love!

 

2. DISCERNMENT.

Romans 12:9     ….. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (NIV)

This may seem a strange comment after the genuineness of love – but contrary to the popular dictum, love is NOT blind.

True love seeks to be discerning, astute, wise — true love needs to be able to tell the difference between what is good and evil so that the high good of the loved one is sought.

SEE why we need to have our minds renewed/to be transformed [v.2] so by God’s Spirit’s help we can know the difference between good and evil.

Loving my Christian brother/sister is not simply avoiding doing him/her harm BUT positively seeking to do him/her good.

So often the excuse for certain behaviour is “I am not harming anyone!” the Christian should be asking “What good am I doing!”

GOOD – not necessarily doing what the other wants BUT rather what God’s wants – Don’t misunderstand the golden rule!!

 

3. AFFECTION.

Romans 12:10 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. ….

brotherly love – this is an affectionate family term that describes the kind of love that should characterise the relationship between parents/children and brothers/sisters and aunts/uncles/nieces/nephews etc. Paul takes this word and applies it to the relationships that should exist between Christians within the family of God.

We are one family because we have a common father – God. Because of this we should do everything in our power to be and remain devoted to each other.

This should be the hallmark of the Christian community…

John 13:34        …… By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

 

I can ask ‘Do you love your fellow Christians?’ likely answer ‘YES’! But a better question is, ‘What are you doing to demonstrate your affection for your fellow believer?’

 

4. HONOUR.

Romans 12:10 10 …… Honour one another above yourselves. (NIV)

 

Respect / deference may help to understand the concept.

I don’t believe that we are here to go around comparing ourselves to each other in terms of gifts/abilities – we are not to compete with each other but to compliment each other. Just as there was to be mutual love in the previous point – here there is to be mutual honour.

 

Paul says a similar thing in —

Philippians 2:3 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (NIV)

It is not that I am to consider every other Christian wiser and more capable than I am BUT, knowing that my own motives are not always pure, knowing that I should sometimes say, “Lord forgive my good deeds!” because my motives are dishonourable — knowing my own weaknesses does not give me the right to prejudge the motives of my fellow-Christian as ‘evil’ unless there is a clear and consistent pattern unchristlike behaviour!

 

5.  ENTHUSIASM.

Romans 12:11 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. (NIV)

ILLUS. Recently speaking to AD about College – saying many of the clubs and special interest groups in the college have dwindled and closed over the years – students seem to lack enthusiasm for anything

 

It is as if it is not ‘cool’ to be enthusiastic – it is ‘sad’ –

It is not entirely the fault of the youth – but it is a symptom of the age – it stems from the philosophy of existentialism – a fancy word for a mindset that lives purely for the present and self-satisfaction NOW. Yesterday [history] is irrelevant and tomorrow is uncertain [no hope] so why be enthusiastic about anything! This is not ALL the explanation but it is in part.

Paul has the opposite is mind – urging his reader not to be lazy but to pursue with passion their love and commitment to each other –

Enthusiasm is often accused of fanaticism – Paul avoids that by stressing that this is not self-induced excitement but Spirit given .

The translation is weak and would read better as follows:—-

Never lag behind in showing enthusiasm, Be aglow with the Spirit, serving the Lord.

– serving the Lord – brings things down to earth – not unbridled fanaticism but passionate, practical commitment to each other and to Christ.

A believer really aglow with the Spirit does not pursue wild, unbridled, religious excitement BUT humbly carries out the mandate of serving the Lord!!

 

6. LONG-SUFFERING.

Romans 12:12 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)

Paul’s readers were not in an easy situation – life for 1st C Christians was tough BUT his call is for patience /long-suffering in the midst of difficulty. They can have joy because there is HOPE – for the Christian there is always something to be joyful about if not in this life certainly in the life hereafter.

That’s why Paul says to the Thessalonians in the face of death —

1 Thessalonians 4:13     13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who died, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. (NIV)

— how is this possible? Because we are confident of Christ’s return and of the glory to follow. BUT without prayer such confident and long-suffering endurance is impossible — in fact all the qualities Paul mentions in this chapter are impossible without prayer to God for help!!

 

7. GENEROSITY.

Romans 12:13 13 Share with God’s people who are in need…

Share can mean either

  • to share with others out of our resources
  • OR to share in their needs and sufferings

so we are talking not only about material resources but also spiritual and emotional –

It might mean physical help – or sitting with someone struggling with illness, bereavement, …..

The word also implies this is done willingly and lovingly not grudgingly!

 

8. OPEN-HEARTED.

Romans 12:13……. EAGERLY Practise hospitality. (NIV)

hospitality lit. ‘lover of strangers’ – easy to see necessity of this in NT times where travel-lodges and inns were few and often dangerous.

There is a place for open home — BUT the underlying attitude is open-heartedness. A heart that has a concern for people!

When strangers and new-comers attend our church is there an open-hearted welcome or a suspicious reserve.

 

I remind you of Jesus’ words in —

Matthew 25:31-40  31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…….. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, …

34 “… the King  JESUS will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you………, I was a stranger and you invited me in, ….

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord….. 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, ….

40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

 

9. GOOD WILL.

Romans 12:14   14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (NIV)

This is a hint of what is coming in the next section – If we are going to have a transformed life and renewed mind [v.2] that implies becoming more and more Christlike – A Christ who on the way to the cross could pray for his persecutors “Father forgive them…”

What about those who have hurt you – inside and outside the Church –

  • That family member who has taken you for granted –
  • that friend who has let you down
  • that boss who makes your life a misery
  • that fellow-Christian who irritates you
  • that neighbour whose cat damages your garden – music too loud – parks the car in your space ….

Do you avoid – hold a grudge – try to get even – wish some harm came to them??

We are to bless them – pray for them – do good to them … next time!!

 

10. EMPATHY.

Romans 12:15 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (NIV)

We are called to identify with each other – to be there for each other – for unbelievers also – BUT we can never do this unless by the sovereign grace of God the truth of Christ’s taking our misery/guilt/sin is impressed deeply upon our hearts by the Spirit.

If I don’t feel with my brothers and sister in their joys and sorrows maybe it is because I have failed to grasp the depth of Christ’s love for me.

If you have suffered in some way and are bitter and twisted against God and carrying a chip on your shoulder then you have missed God’s purpose for you in your suffering — you have wasted your troubles

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (NIV)

If we don’t rejoice with the joyful – we are probably envious ! Titus 3v3.

If we don’t mourn with those who mourn – we are probably gloating! Prov 17v5.

 

11. HARMONY.

Romans 12:16 16 Live in harmony with one another….

being on one mind — working together — harmony doesn’t mean that we are all the same –

ILLUS: in an orchestra / music group there are different instruments — and they play different notes BUT they are all following the same score – different part but in harmony – complimenting each other.

 

The music is written by God – as we play his tune we will harmonise with each other –

Each musician in an orchestra is gifted BUT without the discipline of practice the ability is wasted – the symphony is poor and full of discord and wrong notes!

SO living in harmony with each other takes effort and discipline and sacrifice!!

 

12. HUMILITY.

Romans 12:16 .. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (NIV)

Don’t be a snob!! There are few kind of pride that are worse that snobbery.

Jesus made no distinction between class or race or nationality – he calls us to the same – it is bad enough in the world – it is obscene in the Church!!

 

CONCLUSION.

As you look through the list – think about yourself – How are these qualities going to develop in us and become permanent qualities?

These are Products of a transformed life and renewed mind – achieved only with the help and power of the Holy Spirit — BUT we are not passive!! One can’t claim these characteristics in isolation.

These are relational – they are worked out in relationships with other people!

So if you never have fellowship with our Christians – if you never get close to others you can not hope to develop these Christian qualities. It will cost in time – in pride as we open ourselves to others – as they see our weaknesses – our failures – we will have to become vulnerable — this can be frightening — BUT there is no other way – It is either this OR remain ineffective, weak spiritual babies!!

 

How much happier would the church be if we loved one another like this!!

How much more attractive would we be to the unbelievers when we loved each other like this!

How much more effective would we be in our service for Christ!

 

HOW GENUINE IS YOUR CHRISTIAN LOVE?

 

Romans 12:9-16

 

1. Genuineness

          9 Love must be sincere.

 

2. Discernment

          9b Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

 

3. Affection

          10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.

 

4. Honour

          10b Honour one another above yourselves

 

5. Enthusiasm

          11 Never be lacking in zeal. Be aglow with the Spirit,

                   serving the Lord.

 

6. Long-suffering

          12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Generosity

          13 Share with God’s people who are in need.

 

8. Open-hearted

          13b Practise hospitality.

 

9. Good will

          14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

 

10. Empathy

          15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

 

11. Harmony

          16 Live in harmony with one another.

 

12. Humility

          16 b Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited

 

Romans 12:3-8 – Evaluating yourself and your gifts

EVALUATING YOURSELF AND YOUR GIFT/S

Romans 12:3-8.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Romans 12:1-2

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)

 

Paul began this section with a call to give ourselves wholly to God – body and mind. What we are to do is to no longer think of life in terms of this world – the realm of sin and death – Christians have been transferred into the realm ruled by righteousness and life. The way we are to live in this new realm – the realm of the Spirit – the essence of successful Christian living is by having a renewed mind which, says Paul, will help us to know and to understand what the will of God is.

 

This renewed mind will not only help us to know what God’s will is BUT it will also be active in evaluating ourselves  and  our gifts! We need to know who we are and we need to have a balanced self-image!

 

We know from other passages that the kind of ‘mind’ we are to have is the mind of Christ – a renewed mind is a humble mind —

Philippians 2:5 5  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (KJV)

Philippians 2:5   5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: (NIV)

We must never forget that when sin entered the world it didn’t only effect us from the neck down – our ability to think and reason was also affect – so our minds/thinking needs to change because our thinking/attitudes clearly affect our behaviour.

 

In these verse [3-8] Paul is saying to his Roman Christian readers that they need to apply their minds to evaluating themselves and their gifts.

 

It seems apparent that the Christians in Rome were having a few problems, not only from outside the Church but also inside. There appears to have been a certain amount friction amongst those from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds – probably a certain amount of snobbery and ethnic superiority. Paul has made it quite clear in his letter so far that we are ALL sinner – the means of salvation is the same for ALL viz. by faith in Christ — God has a plan for Jews and Gentiles but ultimately all these plans have there fulfilment in and through Christ.

In view of all God’s goodness to his people [chapters 1-11]  – we then as his people should offer ourselves to God and think of ourselves in an appropriate way – there is no room for snobbery or feelings of superiority!

 

How then are we to evaluate ourselves and our gifts and abilities??

 

1. WHAT TO THINK ABOUT YOURSELF.

 

Romans 12:3

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (NIV)

 

1.1 Look at yourself NOT your neighbour!

            3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: ……………..

It is human nature to point fingers – it started in the Garden of Eden!! the blame culture is not a modern phenomenon.

We are guilty of it in Church – we hear a sermon  and think “I hope So-and-so is listening to this!!”

Paul pre-empts that here! As if he is saying to each individual “I am talking to you – this applies to you!”  So this today “This applies to you – not only the person sitting next – to you!!”

 

1.2. Look as your self soberly!

: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,

 

Sober in this sense has nothing to do with not being intoxicated with alcohol.

It means “being rational — free form exaggeration and speculation” [Oxford English Dict.]

We live in a society where there is much talk about self-esteem; self-image; self-evaluation … Much of the opinion we develop about ourselves comes from the way others treat us and what they say about us — the problem is of course that others often esteem us too highly so that we become conceited or they criticise us so that we develop a poor self-image or built walls for self-protection.

 

Paul urges us to neither think too highly of ourselves –don’t think of yourself as MR.BIG!!

— nor [which he doesn’t say but could have and may imply] too lowly /disparagingly!

 

Our opinion of ourselves is influenced by what others think/say AND by what we can do / our abilities. Paul is not saying that we shouldn’t have an opinion about ourselves or that we shouldn’t have a self-image or self-esteem.

In fact he is encouraging us to have an opinion of ourselves BUT in accordance with two things : the measure of faith given and the gifts of grace given.

 

We are to develop a sober judgment of ourselves by reference to our faith and by reference to our gifts.

 

1.3. Look at yourself according to the standard of the  faith.

…… ……..  rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

 

What does measure of faith  mean?

  • Does it mean the amount of faith each individual Christian receives – being different for each one? If this is true then it refers to the amount given us by God and we are to be humbly grateful as no one has control over the amount given.
  • Does it mean the standard of faith against which we are to measure ourselves? In the context this seems to be the more likely meaning and so ‘standard’ rather than ‘measure’ seem preferable.

i.e. our common Christian faith against which each one of us is to measure ourselves. This is the same for ALL Christians – a saving faith in a crucified and risen Christ. It is only in the light of Christ and his cross that we are able to measure ourselves soberly.

 

Compared to God’s standards we all stand condemned and unworthy – on our own none of us has anything to boast above before God – at best we are sinner even when saved by grace. So we are all on an equal footing in our standing before God – we have no right to think we are better than anyone else!

 

On the other hand we are not to consider ourselves worthless! We are not!  We are of infinite worth because Jesus Christ died to save us from sin and judgment and to make us sons and daughters of the living God. Therefore we each have great value because of what God has made us by faith!

 

So on the one hand I am not a worthless worm but on the other hand I am not intrinsically better than my fellow believers.

 

1.4. Look at yourself according to the gifts of grace!

Romans 12:6 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us….

Paul uses the analogy of the body to drive home the point that no one member is more important than another – all are different BUT each belongs to the whole and all belong to each other. Each part is useful and necessary for the health and function of the whole.

So no matter what your gift is – you can never say that your gift [spiritual] is more important that another’s. Further all gifts are God-given anyway.

The recognition that God is the giver of the gifts is indispensable if we are going to form a ‘sober estimate’ of ourselves.

 

NB that the gifts are according to grace given us thus I have no room to boast.

I cannot look down on a fellow Christian because I think my gift is superior NOR should I be jealous or think myself inferior because I consider another’s gift better.

 

2. WHAT TO THINK ABOUT YOUR GIFTS!

Romans 12:6-8 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to THE [his] faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (NIV)

 

Gifts – a cause of much division / confusion  partly due to misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of spiritual gifts and partly due to an over-emphasis and elevation of some gifts [esp. sign gifts] over other gifts.

 

2.1. Four things about Spiritual Gifts:

          * not to be confused with counterfeit gifts.

It is quite clear from Bible and History that Satan can and does counterfeit God’s work – not all of course !!-

ILLUS> in Exodus we see Pharaoh’s magicians performing many of the signs and wonders that Moses did!

 

Jesus warned of Satan’s opposition and trickery:-

Matthew 24:24 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible. (NIV)

 

Jesus also spoke of those who claimed miracles and prophecy in his name but turned out to be workers of wickedness.

Matthew 7:22-23 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (NIV)

 

ILLUS.: I have attended Muslim festival and hear them speak in tongues and perform miraculous tricks – clearly not the work of God’s Spirit among a people who deny Christ’s deity and crucifixion.

 

This is why as Christians we need to be discerning – as we said last week – because a Christian has an experience it doesn’t automatically mean it is a Christian experience.

EXPERIENCE has become a standard by which to measure authenticity – THIS can’t be right —

ILLUS> Sunday Programme BBC4 [25/7/97] Gay Activist, Nic Hollaway, written and open letter to Cardinal Basil Hume – He will present himself with, wearing a rainbow scarf at Westminster Cathedral to take the Eucharist – he knows the RC’s std against homosexuality. He wants to spark a debate about ALL sexual experiences – for everyone to come together and share their experiences in order to arrive at a consensus!!

 

So too, with gifts and miracle-claims!! We need to be discerning!!

Hebrews 5:13-14 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (NIV)

1 John 4:1

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NIV)

TWO tests re: gifts:

  • does it square with the teaching of the Bible
  • does it edify the body of Christ

ILLUS.:  someone claims to have gift of teaching – Q> Is the Content Biblical? Q> Are other edified through the teaching?

*not to be confused with natural talents.

Every human being has ability – because we are ALL made in God’s image – there are many talented and gifted people in the world – sport – academics – music – business –   BUT only Christians can have Spiritual gifts because only Christians have the Spirit of God in them!

Spiritual gifts are not merely sanctified natural talents – there is often a relationship between the two BUT not always! God does often take a natural gift of an unbeliever and turn it into a spiritual gift when that person becomes a Christian. BUT spiritual gifts are not just souped-up natural talents.

ILLUS.: a school teacher doesn’t always make a good SS teacher – or and accountant a good Church treasurer –

BUT of course often they do because the God brings us into the body of Christ is the same God who made us and he doesn’t waste his work!

 

*not to be confused with the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23           22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. …

 

The fruit is for ALL Christians – ALL of it!! – NOT all the gifts are for all Christians! The Fruit of the Spirit is the expected outcome of Christian growth, maturity, holiness and fulness of the Holy Spirit. ALL Christians are expected to develop this fruit as they walk with Christ and yield their lives constantly and continuously to the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Corinthian Church was very gifted but very immature – lacking spiritual fruit – thus Paul says to them:-

1 Corinthians 13:1-3       1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (NIV)

Love is the supreme fruit of spirituality!!

 

* not to be confused with Christian roles.

What do I mean by this?  best illustrated.

Hospitality – seems that it was a gift – some are very good at it and enjoy it! Does this mean that if you don’t have this gift you should not be hospitable? NO! Every Christian is to be hospitable!!

Celibacy – a gift – not one many desire – every Christian who is not married or is for whatever reason away from their marriage partner has a Christian responsibility to take on the role of celibacy!!

v.8 encouraging – a gift – does that mean that those who don’t have this gift should never encourage another? NO! but some have a God-given and extra ability to do so!!

 

2.2 The source of Gifts.

The are 3 passages that deal with Spiritual gifts — Rom.12; 1 Cor.12; Eph.4.

It is God who is the source/giver of the gifts.

  • In Romans it is God the Father who is the giver.
  • In Eph. it is God the Son – Jesus.
  • In 1 Cor. it is God the Spirit.

These are gifts of grace from a triune God!!

 

2.3. The purpose of the gifts.

This is to glorify Christ – we do that by using the gifts given for the good of the body – Q> “How can I best use my gift so as to benefit each and all?”

Using my gift selfishly – or not using it – is an insult to God and damaging to the body!

The purpose of the gifts is for the building up of the body

Ephesians 4:12 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (NIV)

 

We are to evaluate our gifts to the degree to which they edify the Church

1 Corinthians 14:12 12 … Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. (NIV)

 

2.4. The variety of Gifts.

When we speak of Spiritual gifts the tendency is to focus of the more spectacular and controversial gifts (tongues, interpretation, miracles, healing, prophecy) – in these verses, with the exception of prophecy, Paul focuses on the general / practical gifts – a random list it would seem!!

 

Can’t look at all 7 in this list – focus briefly on prophecy.

 

PROPHECY

– a charisma – grace-gift. Definition is ‘speaking under divine inspiration’.

In Eph.2:20 prophets is mention along with APOSTLES as one of the foundation upon which the Church is built. [Cf. Eph.3:5 – apostle & prophets linked again].

In this category would come people like Paul and John who had divine and universal authority and they were to be believed and obeyed – they had apostolic authority – what they taught was then written down in the Bible and became the authority for the Church’s belief and practice.

 

In other places it is quite clear that prophecy has a secondary position —

 

1 Corinthians 14:37 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. (NIV)

 

In this sense these secondary prophets’ speaking was not to be accepted without testing —

1 Corinthians 14:29        29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. (NIV)

1 John 4:1         1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NIV)

 

Another difference for the secondary prophets’ seems to be that they spoke to local situation whereas the biblical authoritative prophets spoke universally.

 

In the light of these difference it is important to note the restriction that Paul places on the exercise of this prophetic gift –

Romans 12:6 6 …. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to [his] THE faith. (NIV)

THE faith – there are no longer Apostles and prophets in the sense of Paul and John – any prophetic gift in the secondary sense, which also applies to today, must ensure that any message does not in anyway contradict the Christian Faith as revealed in scripture.

 

Prophecy is not standing up and saying “Thus says the Lord” – Nor is it necessarily an extemporaneous, spur-of-the-moment utterance. Most prophecy today , I believe, is through the preaching and teaching of God’s word applied to local and current situations – Those who are gifted to apply God’s word this way are fulfilling a prophetic ministry! Any prophetic speaking/teaching/preaching must be in accordance with/ and authenticated by the Bible!!

 

CONCLUSION>

 

We must all evaluate ourselves and our gifts in a sober minded way.

No one is immune to exaggerated  self-esteem NOR to undervaluing God’s grace gifts to us.

If we consider ourselves to possess gifts that we do not have then we have an inflated opinion of our place and our function.

If we underestimate our gifts then we are refusing to acknowledge God’s grace and we fail to exercise that which God has given for our good and for the good of the Body.

 

We are to each appreciate and use and develop the gifts God has given – not hide them in the hall cupboard of our lives to collect dust.

 

ILLUS [Chuck Swindoll] A group of animals decided to improve their general welfare by starting a school. The cirriculum included swimming, running, climbing and flying. The duck, an excellent swimmer was deficient in other areas, so he majored in climbing, running and flying, much to the detriment of his swimming. The rabbit, a superior runner, was forced to spend so much of his time in other classes, that he soon lost much of his famed speed. The squirrel, who had rated “A” as a climber dropped to a “C” because his instructors spent hours trying to teach him to swim and fly, And the eagle was disciplined for soaring to the treetops when he had been told to learn to climb, even though flying was most natural for him.

Any parable has its limits so don’t push this illus. too far but the point is clear – God wants us to do what we are gifted to do while at the same time fulfilling our Christian duties, developing the fruit of the Spirit with his help, walking daily with Jesus SO THAT the body of Christ may function in an orderly manner and be built up!!

 

EVALUATING YOURSELF AND YOUR GIFTS

 

Romans 12:3-8

 

1. WHAT TO THINK ABOUT YOURSELF!

 

        – Look at yourself, not your neighbour

 

        – Look at yourself soberly

 

        – Look at yourself according to the standard of the Faith

 

        – Look at yourself according to the gifts of grace

 

 

2. WHAT TO THINK ABOUT YOUR GIFTS!

       

        – Four things about spiritual gifts:-

                * not to be confused with counterfeit gifts

                * not to be confused with natural talents

                * not to be confused with the fruit of the Spirit

                * not to be confused with Christian roles

 

        – The source of the gifts

 

        – The purpose of the gifts

 

        – The variety of the gifts

 

Romans 12:1-2 – A life’s worth sacrifice

A LIFE’S WORTH SACRIFICE

Romans 12:1-2

 

Introduction.

 

Not coincidence that we come to Romans 12 this morning! To coincide with Fraser Bell going to Sudan with MedAir. Why would a young man with a Masters degree in International Human Rights Law want to go and work for little remuneration in the back end of Africa.

He could be pursuing a Job with a prestigious Legal practice – being the climb up the ladder of the judiciary. He could be embarking on a career that would give him both finacial reward and social prestige.

Am I scorning such a career? NO! Is it wrong to have a good job and earn a high salary? NO! not in itself!! The issue is — what is the motivation for such a pusuit and what do you do with the money and position when you have it???

 

This passage before us calls for an avoidance of selfish ambition and a pursuit of the will of God. This is seen in the wholeheart giving of ourselves to God in response to God’s wholehearted giving of himself to us!!

 

Paul contrasts two value systems in these verses: The world and the Will of God

 

1. WORLD – AVOIDED.

 

Romans 12:2 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, …

 

What does Paul mean?

“World” used in three basic ways in Bible

  • the earth // the created order —
  • the nations //the human communities of the earth
  • humanity as it is alienated from God // in its fallen, sinful state

 

The first two – the earth // the created order AND the nations //the human communities of the earth — are good and areas that we should be involved in. As human beings made in God’s image we are stewards/custodians of creation // so we should be concerned with green issues and the conservation of the enviroment. We are also part of humanity and are responsible to live moral lives, showing care and compassionate to the afflicted, the poor and the marginalised — being good children, parents, husbands, wives, members of the community both local and global. //–// This is what the Bible means when it says we are to be ‘… in the world …’

The third sense of the word is what Paul has in mind here [12v2] // human society in its refusal to accept God order of things // its refusal to bow before God giving him the honour that is due to him. Humankind in its arrogance, in all its thoughts and plans and desires and pleasures ignoring God and his will.

 

It is a philosophy of life that puts self as a substitute for God – a life characterised by self –

  • self-centredness
  • self-righteousness
  • self-aggrandizement
  • self- satisfaction
  • self-promotion
  • and a corresponding distaste for self-denial.

This is the kind of world that Jesus prayed that God would save his disciples from – it was this aspect of worldliness that Christ Himself was alienated from –

John 17:14-18 14 I have given them [DISCIPLES] your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (NIV)

It is quite clear that Christians are therefore to live in the world and yet to maintain a distinctiveness.

There are, and always have been, two extremes to which Christians can go in realtion to the world in which we live

  • we can become so “otherworldly” that we separate ourselves from society to the point that contact, if any, is superficial and meaningless // we can have zero effect for the gospel – thus you can have some groups that are so exclusive that they are the means of their own ineffectivness.
  • OR we can become so immesed in the society, taking on board its values and lifestyles that any distinctiveness is blurred or completely lost. Thus rendering us totally ineffective for the sake of the gospel.

 

To use Stott’s phrase, God calls us to “radical non-comformity” Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, … — Why not? because the pattern of this world is on a direct collision course with the will of God.

The Society/community/world in which we live has a profound affect on how we think and act. Added to that we are born with a sinful nature – a bias to be selfish – a desire to put self before others and before God. Society is in constant change so the world today is different to 30/50/100 years ago – but the basic principle remains ‘Do I follow that pattern society set OR the pattern God sets?’

 

We live in a society characterised by a number of things

  • tolerance – in the area of religious belief and morality // [a tolerance that basically says you must tolerate me] – ‘I can believe what I like an acts as I like as long as it is covered by the catch-all phrase “I am not hurting anyone”’  – as if ‘I am not hurting anyone’ makes any belief or practice acceptable and true.
  • moral boundaries are blurred // in many cases have vanished all together — READ David Wells p.48 —-
  • the passionate pursuit of things — materialism — Why is it that the Shopping Centre seems to have become the Nation’s new centre of worship – “Shop till you drop” // Why has the Lottery be so successful that a second weekly draw has to be introduced // Why is it that national governments seem to make all decisions on economic principles // that the sole reason for big business decisions is the profits of the share holders.
  • On and on we could go  …..

What are we talking about here? — a way of thinking and acting that is contrary to God’s way!!

Paul warns {JBP Translation ‘don’t allow the world to squeeze you into its own mould’}

 

2. WILL – APPROVED

 

Romans 12:2 …….. able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)

 

What stands in contrast to the world system is the will of God – the will of God covers very much the same areas as the world system – the purpose and meaning of life, ambition, community, religion, sex, money …..

 

test and approve – to discern/ understand and appreciate what God’s will is.

Paul doesn’t tell us here HOW we are to know God’s will but he does in other places – there are two things that help us know God’s will – the SPIRIT OF GOD who having brought us to Christ is at work renewing everypart of our humanness that is damaged by sin/the fall // AND the WORD OF GOD – the Bible which is God’s message and direction for life!

 

We often want to know the specifics about ‘My Life’ – the danger is that often we are so concerned about what we don’t understand that we neglect to obey what we do understand! There is more than enough that is easy to understand – don’t lie to each other// pray for each other// help each other// care for each other// serve each other// put others first // care for the sick, lonely, oppressed ……

this is the will of God!!

 

3. WORSHIP – ACCEPTED.

 

Paul talks about two aspects of worship in this passage: Our Bodies and Our Minds.

BODIES>

Romans 12:1     ……. offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV)

 

The language Paul is using is plainly that of sacrifice — in the OT sacrificial system would have been clearly understood by Paul’s readers — the animal that OT law required had to be without defect physically and a fragrant aroma

Leviticus 1:3

3 ” ‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD.

Leviticus 1:9 9 ….. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. (NIV)

 

God doesn’t want burnt animals – he wants us – living sacrifices // ‘living’ and ‘sacrifices’ sound contradictory put together [like saying a “giant midget”]  The whole point of a sacrifice is that it is dead – so how can you have living dead? If you are living you are not sacrificed; if you are sacrificed you are not living. Better to think of sacrificial lifestyle – not isolation /withdrawl from the mainstream BUT godly sacrificial living/lifestyle ///

 

– he wants our love, our service, he wants us to live life that are in accordance with his pattern // his will – so that we begin to live unselfishly, sacrificially, spiritually — this is our spiritual act of worship.

spiritual – can equally be translated ‘reasonable’ or ‘rational’ this ties in with the renewal of mind in the next verse –

Worshipping and serving God is not a purely emotional exercise – [emotions are involved BUT so too is the mind – when we worship we are to use our minds – offering ourselves to God is not a mindless exercise but an act of intelligent worship. It is what ALL humans should do.

There is a lovely comment from a 1st Century Stoic Philosopher, Epictetus, “If I were a nightingale I would do what is proper to a nightingale. If I were a swan I would do what is proper to a swan I fact I am LOGIKOS [lit. rational being] so I must praise God.”

 

Similar to the Children’s song we sing ‘If I were a butterfly, I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings…’

 

This spiritual worship that God requires of us is not offered in a Temple Court or a Cathedral BUT in our home life, school/college life, our work life, …

We talk of giving our hearts to Christ – he wants all of us!!

Worship that is purely inward and abstract and mystical – if that is all it is then it is not true worship — it must express itself in concrete acts of service performed by our bodies.

 

There was a view in NT times that taught that the body was not important – only the soul – this led to all kinds of immorality – NO says Paul the body is important so sexual immorality, gluttony, masochism is to be avoided and we are to care for our bodies [not worship them] and use them in the service of others for God’s sake.

 

Romans 6:13-19 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. …… 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? …….

19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (NIV)

 

Not instruments of wickedness but instruments of righteousness so that our feet will walk God’s way, our lips will speak his truth, our hands will lift those who have fallen, and perform the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, washing-up and mending -[even spring-cleaning the Church building and cutting the Church grass and hedge!!! — going to Broadwater Lodge and singing hymns with the old Folks some of whom don’t know whether its Christmas or August], our arms will embrace the lonely and the unloved, our ears will listen to the cries of the distressed [and go to Sudan to do something about it – or across the street].

 

MINDS>

Romans 12:2 … be transformed by the renewing of your mind. .

This is not simply a fleeting whimp – a brief bright idea and then back to the old ways — this is Metamorphosis — it is a process — but it is permanent — it is a revolutionary change brought about by the work of God’s Spirit and the Word of God.

When we become Christians we are born again – born spiritually [JUSTIFIED]– this is a work of the Holy Spirit — BUT this is just the beginning now the Spirit and the Word work together to change us to be more and more like Jesus [SANCTIFICATION]

2 Corinthians 3:18 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV)

Ephesians 5:26 26  …..to make her [CHURCH -including us]  holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (NIV)

 

God wants to change us – he wants to change the way we think – ‘Thinking right always proceeds acting and speaking right’.

“You are not what yu think you are BUT what you think, you are!”

 

We make a big mistake if we think God will be satisfied with second best – he wants ALL that we are!! We can’t doff our caps to God on Sunday morning and live the rest of the week as we please!

 

We have this strange notion sometimes that if we give ourselves to God – body and mind – then somehow we are loosing out//we will miss something ///    “What plans do you have for the rest of your life?” “Is God tagged on the end OR is He at the centre!”

Young People – as you think about your future – University, marriage partner, career are you considering how this all fits with God’s purposes/kingdom –

 

Why should we be living sacrifices to God???

 

4. WHY – ANSWERED.

 

Romans 12:1     1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, ..

 

ILLUS. Stuart Briscoe in one of his books tells how while staying with an elderly widow on one of his preaching tours she told him that she was not inclined to be a living sacrifice – He suggested that she read through Romans 1-11 ans make a list of all God’s mercies to her. Next morning she accused him of being the cause of her sleepless night but confessed to being willing to give herself unreservedly to God in view of his mercies to her.

 

If you have difficulty with ‘sacrificial lifestyle’  I suggest you read ch.1-11!!

  • we deserve God’s anger/judgement
  • God’s mercy shown in Christ’s life/death/resurrection/
  • offers salvation

If Christ suffered and die for me – gave everything/his life for me — surely it is not too much that I should serve him whloeheartedly!!  Not grudgingly but eagerly.

 

What motivates Fraser to go to Sudan – he has understood something of the mercies of God!!

God may not ask you to go Abraod BUT he does ask you to follow a sacrificial lifestyle!!

NB Paul says 1 Therefore, I urge you, … to offer ….  God wants us to love him and serve him willingly.

 

End with a story of a little girl whose attitude demonstrates the willingness to give to God!

 

ILLUS.: A little girl was given 10 bright new pennies. Instantly she began to part with them. “This one is for Jesus. This one is for you, Mummy. This one is for Daddy, ..” and so on until she only had one penny left. “And this one is for Jesus.” she said again. “But you have already given one to Jesus” said the mother. Yes, Mummy, but that one belonged to Jesus. This one is a present!”

 


SACRIFICIAL LIFESTYLE

 

Romans 12:1-2.

 

 

1. WORLD AVOIDED

      “ Do not conform … to the pattern of this world”

            (“world” – humanity against / not obeying God )

 

 

2. WILL APPROVED

          “ test and approve what God’s will is”

 

 

3. WORSHIP ACCEPTED

      Bodies >

         “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy & pleasing to God”

      Minds >

          “this is your ‘rational’ act of worship”

           “ be transformed by the renewing of your mind”

 

 

4. WHY ANSWERED

           “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy”

Romans 11:1-32 – What about Jews and their future?

WHAT ABOUT THE JEWS AND THEIR FUTURE?

 

Romans 11v1-32.

 

So Far …

Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome // made up of people from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds // whenever two people or groups of people are brought together from different cultures or backgrounds there will be tensions and misunderstandings even if they are all Christians!!

 

Remember that Paul is dealing with the issue of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan.

Some Gentile-Christians who were saying that God had finished with Israel – the Church had replaced Israel in God’s plan.

There were some Jewish-Christians who were saying that Israel, the Jewish Law, was still indispensable and a person had to become a Jew before he/she could become a Christian.

Paul is arguing on two fronts … he disagrees with both of these positions …. the issue he tackles in ch.11 is, “What, if any, future does Israel have in the plan of God?”

In a broad sense this is one of the issue Paul has been addressing in the whole letter // but esp. in 9-11 and then in chapter 11 reaches the climax of his discussion about Israel in the plan of God.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Chapter 11 is not an easy passage of scripture // it surfaces some difficult issues // it has caused much debate in Christian circles about the future of the Jewish people, the modern State of Israel, the political situation in the Middle East and the End Times!!

 

Does this chapter have anything to say about these issues?? Yes and No!

We like to have all the answers and we like to have then neatly packaged and labeled and stacked in tidy rows // it is never like that and there often appear to us to be loose treads //partly because God doesn’t give us a detailed blueprint of his universal plan but just what we need to know // further, even what he does tell us we do not fully understand because we are both finite and sinful.

 

In this chapter Paul asks and answers two basic questions relating to the Jews.

The situation is that the majority of the Jews had rejected their Messiah, Jesus. In Chapter 9 Paul pointed of that God is sovereign and he chooses whom he pleases to be his people BUT you can’t blame God for Israel’s reject [ch.10] says Paul they were stubborn and disobedient.

 

Does this therefore mean that God has rejected all the Jews? [v1]

Is this rejection of the Jews permanent and final? [v11]

These are the two questions Paul asks // the answers to both is an emphatic NO!

 

1. HAS GOD REJECTED THE JEWISH PEOPLE? [v.1-10]

 

Romans 11:1

1 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. (NIV)

 

Paul is adamant that God has not turn his back on Israel – How can he be so sure?

He gives 4 reasons:

1) PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Romans 11:1 ….. I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. (NIV)

– Paul is one of God’s chosen people – if there is any proof that God has not totally rejected the Jews it is Paul himself – a persecutor and opponent of Christ and his people until his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.

 

2) THEOLOGICAL TRUTH

Romans 11:2 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. …..

Paul has reminded us in this very letter that God is true to his word – that he made a covenant with his people, Israel – and God’s promises are unbreakable!

These are his people whom God ‘foreknew’ – who he elected/chose in advance.

He has made clear in ch. 8 that foreknowledge implies love and salvation.

The majority of the Jews may have rejected Jesus but a remnant have not – proof that God has not rejected his fore-ordained people!!

 

3) HISTORICAL EXAMPLE

Romans 11:2-4 ……… Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah — how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Elijah was a prophet in Israel at the time of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel – pagan religions dominated the country of Israel – in a dramatic episode Elijah confronts the prophets of Ball // with God’s help wins – he incurs the wrath of Jezebel and becomes the most wanted man in Israel.  Hiding in a cave on Mt. Horeb he informs God that he is the only one left who is faithful to God!

No’, says God, ‘there are actually 7000!!’

God always has his faithful remnant – //this leads Paul to the present circumstances of the early Church.

 

4) 1st CENTURY CIRCUMSTANCES

Romans 11:5 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. (NIV)

There were many hundreds of Jewish Christians in the 1st C. Acts 21:20

            20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, […..PAUL’S ARRIVAL IN JERUSALEM]

They were still in the minority but there were many of them. Paul makes the point that these Jews are God’s people not because of their natural birth into the Jewish race but because of their spiritual birth BY GRACE.

This remnant is a chosen remnant due to God’s sovereignty and his grace!!

 

So as there can be no confusion about this he adds v.6

Romans 11:6 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

We cannot in anyway work for salvation – the only way to be right with God // to be a Christian // to be a member of God’s Kingdom is by HIS grace! Because he is kind and generous and forgiving //IF there was any work there it could not for that reason be grace!!

 

WHY DID THE MAJORITY OF JEWS MISS OUT?

Romans 11:7-10

7 What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8 as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,

eyes so that they could not see

and ears so that they could not hear,

to this very day.”

It may seem at first sight that their hard-hearts and deaf ears were God’s doing – but in ch.9 with the example of pharaoh, has already shown us that this hardening was as a result of their rejection of God. When people continue to reject God he gives them over to their own stubbornness and they loose any spiritual sensitivity they may have had!

 

9 And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap,

a stumbling-block and a retribution for them.

10 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,

and their backs be bent for ever.” (NIV)

Table – often a symbol of home, community, well-being … God gave Israel may blessings // a table spread before them // but in rejecting God’s offer – primarily in Jesus Christ – those blessings became a burden and a stumbling block.

SO TODAY – receive Christ and experience God’s salvation or reject him and incur God’s anger and judgement!

 

LESSONS – God is faithful // even when his people are disobedient he doesn’t reject totally because he is faithful

For the Church – gives confidence for the future – God will never reject

For the individual – God’s grace is always available to those who respond                  to his love

 

2. IS GOD’S REJECTION OF THE JEWS PERMANENT?

 

Romans 11:11

11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! …..

 

Yes God has rejected all except a remnant BUT that partial rejection is not permanent or final.

 

From vv.11-27 Paul is trying to make one basic point which he comes at from different angles – // he then draws it all together in vv.28-32.

 

We can’t look at the detail //will get overall gist and then look at a key but fairly controversial verse, viz. v26 ‘“And so all Israel will be saved…”

 

1) [v.11 -12] THE MUTUAL BENEFIT JEWS AND GENTILES ARE TO EACH OTHER IN THE ECONOMY OF GOD.

 

[read v.11-12]

 

  • Israel’s transgressions //rejection by God in part
  • Salvation then for the Gentiles // in a greater way than before as it was possible for Gentiles to become part of Israel in OT.
  • Israel’s jealousy leading to their return/‘fulness’
  • The result will be greater riches // not explained here

 

Things aren’t always as they seem says Paul // Israel’s rejection may seem to be a tragedy, and in a real sense it is, BUT God is not caught by surprise and this situation will ultimately bring rich blessing to many // including many Jews!!

 

God is never caught off guard // Political commentators, politicians, pollster may be surprised by landslide parliamentary elections but not God! What to us may be pleasing or displeasing depending on your view point, does not influence God’s overall plan.

While Paul’s heart is breaking over the rejection of his own people he can also see that God is moving things for maximum blessing and for his glory.

 

2) [v.13-16] PAUL’S PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT IN THE REJECTION-ENVY-RECONCILIATION PROCESS

 

[read v.13-16]

 

  • Israel’s rejection again
  • reconciliation of the world
  • Israel’s envy and then their acceptance //previous section ‘fulness’
  • ‘..life from the dead.’ //  for many

 

Israel rejected Christ // following this rejection the gospel came to the Gentiles with great blessing // his hope is that this will make the Jews envious so that they will turn to their Jesus // if this happens the worldwide blessing would be unimaginable like “..new life from the dead..”

 

If God could bring blessing to the world through Israel’s rejection then how much greater will be the blessing through Israel’s acceptance and fulness??

 

3) [v.17-24] JEWS AND GENTILES ARE ULTIMATELY JOINED TOGETHER BECAUSE THEY BELONG TO THE SAME ROOT.

 

[read v17-24]

 

  • natural branches broken off // Jews rejected because of unbelief
  • wild branches grafted in // Gentiles receive God’s blessing by faith
  • natural branches can be re-grafted // Israel can return by faith
  • wild branches can be broken off too // no room for complacency //however, not that those who truly belong to Christ can ever be rejected, BUT their continuance or perseverance is the hallmark of God’s genuine children.

 

There is a warning and a promise in these verses:

Warning // since the natural branches were broken off the wild one could be too. The Gentiles could be rejected like the Jews!!

Promise // since the wild branches were grafted in the natural one could be too. The Jews could be accepted like the Gentiles so the is no need for despair!!

 

 

4) [v.25-27] THE REVEALED MYSTERY OF GOD’S GRACE!

 

[read v.25-27]

 

  • Israel’s partial and temporary hardening
  • ‘..full number of Gentiles ..’ // they have benefited from Israel’s  hardening
  • salvation of ‘all’ Israel
  • NB>>>{Grand finale of blessing to all} –omitted here but comes in v.32!!!

 

Romans 11:26 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

 

And so .. refers not to the timing of Israel’s salvation but to the manner of it!!

Jews will be saved in the same way that Gentiles will be saved – //faith in Jesus.

 

Paul gives no indication of when this salvation will take place // he is use broad brush strokes.

 

ALL – not every individual Jew // not universalism // Paul would not be saddened by Israel’s rejection if that were the case.

 

He sees God working out his purposes in Jews and Gentiles // he is confident that there will be spiritual fruit among the Jews as well, matching that among the Gentiles. He thinks of two great halves of humanity, Jews and Gentiles, gradually moving towards an great complimentary fulfillment, each bound up with each other. The ‘Fulness of the Gentiles’ balances ‘all Israel will be saved’ and together they make up the ALL MEN [v.32] upon whom God would have mercy!

This ALL MEN is not an ALL without exception [not univeralism] but an ALL without distinction – God has no favourites except those who come to him by faith!!

 

3. FINAL SUMMARY [v.28 – 32]

 

This brings to a conclusion ch.9-11 –

9v4-5 listed all the benefits and promises God gave Israel – and God does not change his mind

Romans 11:29 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (NIV)

 

 

 

v.30-31 – Mercy follows disobedience

  • disobedient Gentiles have received God’s mercy
  • NOW disobedient Israel may receive God’s mercy too

 

Ultimately EVERYONE is in the prison of disobedience so that God can have mercy on all who believe // NOT an ALL without exception but an ALL without distinction.

 

 

LESSONS IN RESPECT TO ISRAEL

 

1) God has one plan of salvation for Jews and Gentiles NOT a two track salvation – salvation is only through Christ!

 

2) Israel in not the Centre of God’s plan of Salvation – while the Jews, esp. the Patriarchs are important to the founding of the People of God – it is plain from Paul that CHRIST is the root to which the People of God must be attached [cf John 15 vine and branches]

 

3) Modern Israel – second half of v.26

Romans 11:26-27 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;

he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

27 And this is my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.” (NIV)

“The deliverer will come from Zion;- refers to Christ’s first coming —

This deliverer will establish God’s covenant which is the promised forgiveness of sins -// Paul has already made the point that not all Israel is Israel [9v6] // this has come to Jews and Gentiles //nothing is said of a political Nation or of a return to the land //remember in Paul days there were probably more Jews living outside Palestine than inside.

 

4) God still has a plan for the Jews – they have not lost all distinctiveness in God’s plan.

 

5) The title “people of God” applies to those you have come to Christ by faith both Jews and Gentiles and not to Israel.

 

 

 

 

 

LESSONS IN RESPECT TO CHURCH AND INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANS

 

1) Being God’s people, like Israel in OT, leaves no room for complacency. That was the error Israel made. When the Church ceases to live by faith and tries to survive on past experience, or tradition, or liturgy, or legalism it is in grave danger of  becoming a ‘branch that is broken off” //that the WARNING!!

 

2) THE BLESSING // God’s plan will not fail – he always has a remnant – church may decline in certain areas BUT as a whole the worldwide Church will continue to increase Until there are people from every tribe and tongue and nation and language to stand before God’s throne and praise Him.

 

3) MERCY // always available to ALL – the disobedient and rejected included – SO no matter who you are or what you have done God’s mercy and blessing in available to you IF you come to Christ by Faith.

 

THUS //Paul seeing God’s great plan of salvation for ALL people and that God has not rejected Paul’s fellow-Jews completely or permanently  breaks out in praise to God ….

Romans 11:33-36

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been his counsellor?”

35 “Who has ever given to God,

that God should repay him?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things.

To him be the glory for ever! Amen. (NIV)

 

 

ISRAEL: What place in God’s plan?

 

Romans 11:1-32

 

1. HAS GOD REJECTED ALL JEWISH PEOPLE?

[v.1-10]

       “NO!” – says Paul from…

               Personal experience

              ‚ Theological Truth

              ƒ Historical Example

              „ 1st Century Circumstances

 

2. IS GOD’S REJECTION OF THE JEWS PERMANENT?

[v.11-27]

“NO” says Paul, “God’s plan includes  Jews & Gentiles”

 

       v.11-12  The Mutual benefit that Jews and Gentiles

                     are to each other in the economy of God.

                            Israel’s sin / rejection

                            Salvation for the Gentiles

                            Israel’s jealousy  / then fulness

                            resulting greater riches

 

       v.13-16  Paul’s personal involvement in the

                     Rejection-envy-reconciliation process.

                            Israel’s rejection

                            Reconciliation to the world

                            Israel’s envy / then acceptance

                            ‘… life from the dead.’ for many

 

       v.17-24 Jews and Gentiles are ultimately joined

                     together as they belong to the same root.

                            natural branches broken off / Jews

                            wild branches grafted in / Gentiles

                            natural branches can be ‘re-grafted’

                            wild branches could be broken off

 

       v.25-27 The revealed mystery of God’s grace.

                            Israel’s partial and temporary hardening

                            ‘… full number of Gentiles …’

                            salvation of ‘all Israel’

                            (Grand finale of blessing to all – v.32)

 

3. THE FINAL SUMMARY.                                                [v.28-32]

      

       v.28-29 God does not withdraw his promises.

 

       v. 30-32 There is always mercy for the disobedient.

                      Disobedient Gentiles have received God’s mercy

                      Now disobedient Jews may received mercy too

      

Ultimately ALL are in the prison of disobedience and mercy is available to ALL without distinction

Romans 10v14-2 – Christ must be proclaimed

CHRIST MUST BE PROCLAIMED:

ALL THE EVIDENCE POINTS TO HIM SO THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR UNBELIEF

 

Romans 10v14-21.

 

So far…

 

Reminder – in these chapters 9-11 Paul is addressing the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in relation to Christ.

 

He has told us in the letter so far that ALL are sinners and fall short of the standards God requires and that only way for anyone, whether Jew or Gentile, to know God, to be justified before God,  is by faith in Jesus.

That raises the question about the Jews as God’s chosen people and the special place they have enjoyed in the OT – What about the Jewish Law given through Moses? Didn’t a person first have to accept this and become a Jew in order to become a Christian? NO, says Paul, the Law never brought about salvation but was simply a pointer that was leading us to Christ who is the end of the Law – [the terminus or goal of the Law]. [10v4]

 

The Jews for the most part had rejected Jesus – in rejecting him they had failed to grasp their own law. Because they misunderstood their own Law they rejected Christ.

 

So whether one was a Jew with all the OT background or a Gentile with a pagan background – there is no difference, says Paul, as the offer of salvation is to everyone — and everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.

God is Lord of all – both Jews and Gentiles  ….. and HE richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (NIV)

 

Saved from what? — from the anger and judgement of God which is directed against ALL people.

WHY? — because all people are sinner — naturally we are all spiritually dead. SO it is being saved from our sinfulness, from spiritual death and from God’s judgement BUT it is being saved for eternal, spiritual life — coming to know God in a personal way – becoming part of God’s kingdom – having the privilege and enjoyment of being involved in God’s business where the fulfillment, job satisfaction and benefits are out of this world.

 

 

 

No matter how fulfilling and wonderful your life might be – “You may have a great life, good job, financial security, loving family BUT all that is only for a short time because we all must die and leave it all behind and then what??” — That is why we need to call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

 

BUT how? …how? …how? …how?

 

1. THE PROCESS OF PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL.

 

What is the Gospel? – The good news about Jesus Christ and what he did by dying on the cross for us!!

 

Romans 10:14-15

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (NIV)

 

Paul’s logic in these verses in quite clear — how does anyone come to know God?

 

1)    CALLING  – Calling on the NAME of the Lord — means believing that Jesus died, rose from the dead and that he is Lord — summed up in this question is everything that Paul has said so far in this chapter — Romans 10:9 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (NIV)

 

 

2)    HEARING – What kind of hearing And how can they believe in the one {of} whom they have not heard? – omit ‘of’ because the kind of hearing Paul is talking about is not simply hearing about Christ BUT hearing Christ. The Christian faith is not a system of belief, it is not only know facts about Christ but it is knowing Christ personally. It is having a direct encounter with a person who can bring about a transformation of heart and mind. It is not any old religious experience or commitment BUT a faith in a risen Christ who has been heard personally.

 

 

3)    PREACHING – the word is to proclaim or herald – in the days before mass media news was communicated to the masses in this way – the old town crier in the city square or village marketplace – there could be no hearers without heralds – those who communicate the good news – all Christians are to be witnesses but some are specially gifted as proclaimers/preachers/evangelists

 

 

 

4)    SENDING – word is apostello – same as apostle – narrow use of Paul and the other 11 — but also a broader meaning of those sent out by the Church to herald the good news – so the sending is the responsibility of the Church – thus we are all responsible to be involved in the proclamation of the gospel even if we are not on the front-line.

 

The need for this kind of proclamation is now confirmed by the Scriptures

Isaiah 52:7        7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,”Your God reigns!”

This was the proclamation of the prophet Isaiah at the good news that the Jewish exiles in Babylon were to be released and return to Jerusalem. How much more beautiful should be the feet of the proclaimers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Why beautiful feet – the OT Heralds/messengers would run swiftly carrying the news to the people.

 

This then is the essence of Paul’s explanation as to how the Good News is proclaimed:- (In the reverse order)

  • Christ sends heralds
  • heralds preach
  • people hear
  • hearers believe
  • believers call
  • those who call are saved!

 

If Christ is going to be made known to the ends of the earth then evangelism is essential. We feel the force of Paul’s argument in the rhetorical way in which he asks these questions:-

  • unless some are commissioned for the task there will be no gospel preachers
  • unless the gospel is preached, sinners will not hear Christ’s voice [sometimes the preaching falls on deaf ears]
  • unless they hear [this hearing is not simply receiving sound waves through the ears but is encountering the risen, living Christ] him they will not believe the truth of his death/resurrection
  • unless they believe these truths they cannot call on Him
  • unless they call on him they cannot be saved

 

 

 

 

2. THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR REJECTING THE GOSPEL.

          – there is no excuse for unbelief

 

Romans 10:16-17

            16 But not all the {Israelites } accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (NIV)

 

The word Israelites does not appear in the original text – while there is a good case for assuming that Paul is referring to the rejecting of Jesus by the Jews it is certainly not only the Jews who have rejected the gospel – many non-Jews have as well!

 

While the Jews may be in the forefront of Paul’s thinking they are by no means the only ones who have rejected the good news.

The gospel had been widely preached – many had heard –

Today with Radio/TV/print millions hear and many reject so they have no excuse before God.

 

You maybe thinking – “What about those who have not heard?”

 

Paul quotes Ps.19:4 to substantiate his position. He knows how you think ….

Romans 10:18 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:

Their voice has gone out into all the earth,

                        their words to the ends of the world.” (NIV)

 

Paul doesn’t quote from a passage about the spread of the gospel but from a psalm that is about the witness of the heavens (creation) to the creator.

Has Paul made a mistake? NO! if creation is sufficient witness to people that there is a Creator and they are thus without excuse — how much more when they hear about God’s special revelation through Jesus.

 

No one has an excuse – even if there is no response to those who proclaim God’s message — they still have before them the witness of creation to the power and majesty of God.

 

Faith comes when we hear the message of Christ – it is a gift from God! [v.17]

Hearing with the physical ear is insufficient – we must hear and receive Christ in our souls.

 

 

 

The is no excuse for unbelief —-

Romans 1:19-20 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (NIV)

 

3. THE OPEN OFFER OF THE GOSPEL

          – God’s gracious initiative

 

18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:

            “Their voice has gone out into all the earth,

                        their words to the ends of the world.”

19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,

            “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;

                        I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

20 And Isaiah boldly says,

            “I was found by those who did not seek me;

                        I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”

21 But concerning Israel he says,

            “All day long I have held out my hands

                        to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

 

Remember that Paul is dealing with the issue of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan.

Some Gentile-Christian who were saying that God had finished with Israel – the church had replaced Israel in God’s plan.

There were some Jewish-Christians who were saying that Israel, the Jewish Law, was still indispensable and a person had to become a Jew before he/she could become a Christian.

Paul is arguing on two fronts and he will deal with this in greater detail when he comes to ch.11.

 

The Gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation – [v18] — his witness is to the ends of the earth. This includes the Jews and so they cannot blame their unbelief on their having not heard.

They cannot use not hearing as an excuse!!

 

Did they not then understand?  No! says Paul, that is not possible! He quotes from Moses [The Law] and from Isaiah [The Prophets] – two witnesses against Israel!

          MOSES – Deuteronomy 32:21

21 ……I will make them envious by those who are not a people;

I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding. (NIV)

This nation of no understanding about whom Moses speaks are not Jews but Gentiles – called ‘not a nation’ – a reminder of what Paul quoted earlier from Hosea – ‘not my people’.

God has been gracious to the Gentiles because he wants his salvation to go to all the earth BUT also as a message to Israel – it is an object lesson to make the Jews angry and jealous of what God has done for these ‘not-understanding’ and ‘no-nation’ Gentiles – The Gentiles are God’s message to Israel with Love

 

Israel, says Paul has rejected Christ not because she has not heard and not because she has not understood! So why?? — because she is stubborn – a disobedient and obstinate people – they are ignorant of God’s righteousness but it is a willful ignorance!

 

CONTRASTING RESPONSES –

to show the difference between the Gentile response and the Jewish response Paul quotes again from the OT, this time from Isaiah.

Isaiah 65:1

1 “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;

I was found by those who did not seek me.

[To a nation that did not call on my name,

                        I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ ]

TO THE GENTILES – Paul did not quote the second half of this verse but he could have done. This is God speaking; to those who do not normally worship him, who did not seek him, God takes the initiative and comes to them

I showed myself to them – I caused them to find me – I presented myself to them ‘Here I am!’”.

 

This is wonderful imagery of the Grace of God –  we do not naturally seek God – the initiative for salvation is with God. Left to our own devices we would never find God because we would never look for Him. We do not find him, rather he allows himself to be found.

 

TO ISRAEL  – Paul quotes the very next verse from

Isaiah 65:2

2 All day long I have held out my hands

to an obstinate people,

who walk in ways not good,

pursuing their own imaginations — (NIV)

 

Here is a picture not just of a God being found BUT holding out his hands – outstretched arms of welcome.

Like a parent offering a welcome to a wayward child – like the father in the prodigal son – offering an embrace and a kiss.

 

N.B. the All day long – God doesn’t turn away when there is no response – he is patient and kind and forgiving. Paul is saying to the Jews – God’s offer of salvation is still there – he has not finished with Israel – he still holds out his hands – BUT they are disobedient and obstinate! Israel’s fall from grace was their own fault!

 

 

WHAT ARE THE LESSONS FOR US?

 

1)  If you are a Christian you have a part to play in the proclamation of the gospel.

 

2)  If you are one who does not receive God’s offer of salvation – then you have no excuse before God  – you are at fault and you only have yourself to blame!

 

3)  God is infinitely gracious

  • he offers salvation to those who have not yet believed – if you do not yet know Christ – if you have not heard his voice in your soul – he is standing before you saying ‘Here I am!’ accept my offer – accept Jesus.

 

  • maybe like Israel you have believed but you have turned away

– your heart is cold towards God

– you have done something of which you are ashamed and think God can’t forgive you

– maybe you are angry with God because you are suffering emotionally/physically financially, life is hard

–   maybe like Israel you just wilfully want to go your own way. God stands before you all day long like a loving father with outstretched arms inviting you back.

 

 

GOD’S GRACE IS OFFERED TO EVERYONE

SO THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR ANYONE!

 

Romans 10v14-21

 

1. The Process of Proclaiming the Gospel.

                                                      [v.14-15]

                  Calling

                  Hearing

                  Preaching

                  Sending

      (Christ sends heralds – Heralds preach –   

        – People hear – Hearers believe – Believers call –

        – Those who Call are saved!)

 

2. The Responsibility for Rejecting the      Gospel.                                  [v.16-18]

 

            “Don’t blame God, …

                     … there is no excuse for unbelief!”

 

3. The Open Offer of the Gospel.

                                                      [v.18-21]  

       God’s gracious initiative to ALL

              – the Gentiles …

                     … and the Jews